Margin Notes



Tonight the streets are oursArden Huntley seems to have it all: family, a best friend, a gorgeous actor of a boyfriend, and good marks. But things change, and people change.

Arden has always taken care of the people in her life; she is loyal to a fault. Now she feels her loyalty is being taken for granted when her mother leaves, her best friend lets her take the fall for drugs found in their locker, and her boyfriend cancels on plans for their 1-year anniversary celebration. This is when Arden stumbles upon a blog called “Tonight the Streets Are Ours” and becomes fascinated by the New York author Peter. She feels connected to him and starts to live vicariously through his blog posts.

Setting out on a road trip to find and meet Peter, Arden, and her best friend Lindsey, have a crazy night. This includes Arden discovering that Peter is not who she thought he was; he is not who he portrays in his blog. But this night also propels Arden on a journey of self-discovery, which leads her to reconnect with her mom and repair her relationship with Lindsey.

This story begins with, “Like all stories, the one you are about to read is a love story. If it wasn’t what would be the point?”. Readers looking for a book that includes a unique perspective on this theme will surely enjoy Tonight the Streets Are Ours.

Angela Lardner is a teacher at Stanley Consolidated School. She teaches English 9, English 112, English 122 as well as Resource. Her greatest joys are reading and her 2 dogs: Thor and Apollo.



Read-Alouds are a powerful, and we believe essential, component to building an engaged and empowered community of readers in the literacy classroom. Frank Seragini and Suzette Serafini-Youngs say it best in their professional resource Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days:

“What occurs during reading aloud and discussing literature affects how individuals transact with texts independently. How literature is discussed during the read-aloud provides the most concrete demonstration of the ways we want students to read and think on their own and in small groups. If things don’t happen during whole-group instructions, why would we expect them to happen when we send students off on their own to read?”

When we are reading aloud, we want our students to be engaged and captivated. Anne Elliott and Mary Lynch, in their book Cultivating Readers, discuss the ways students are drawn in by a read-aloud: “Students need to hear and see a reader who reads with great pace, tone, phrasing, expression, and intonation.” They also explore the many purposes a read aloud can have in our classrooms:

• Exposure to different genres
• Reading for enjoyment
• As a mentor text for writing
• For making thinking visible
• As opportunities for dialogue and discussion about rich text and topics
• As fuel for higher-order thinking questions

Knowing our purpose, selecting quality texts, planning how the read-aloud will benefit the readers in front of us, and responding to the “teachable moments” that arise during the authentic discussions all work together in creating a community of readers in our classrooms.

When selecting a read-aloud for your classroom, keep in mind all of the rich, quality types of text that are available aside from an engaging full-length novel:

• Sections from novels
• Non-fiction
• Poetry
• Short stories
• Images
• Articles
• Videos
• Comics
• Infographics
• Artwork
• Picture Books

To help you get started in exploring options for read-alouds in your classroom, we put together this Read-Aloud Padlet of resources that includes a variety of texts you might consider. If you are interested in learning more about how read-alouds can contribute to growing an engaged community of readers in your classroom, we suggest checking out the following:

Article: “The Power and Promise of Read-Alouds and Independent Reading” by The International Literacy Association
Blog Post: “Never too old: Reading aloud to independent readers” by Donalyn Miler
Blog Post: “Reading Books Aloud – Teaching Readers, Knitting Hearts” by Valinda Kimmel
Podcast: “Why Read Aloud Matters” with Rebecca Bellingham
Podcast: “A Novel-Approach Read Aloud” with Kate Roberts

As always, if you are looking for support or want to chat further about how to use read-alouds in your classroom, please send us an email!



I had the pleasure of attending the National Council of Teachers of English conference and presenting as part of a #BuildYourStack panel. Our theme was curiosity and I chose to share 5 titles to inspire secondary writers to get curious about the stories that live in their worlds. These titles pair nicely with writer’s notebooks and encourage students to observe and capture potential writing topics and ideas in their environments. Here they are:


I Wonder, written by KA Holt and illustrated by Kenard Pak, follows a group of children across a day as they wonder about and question the world around them. It ends at bedtime with the final curiosity of the day: “I wonder why I wonder so much.”

This picture book is an invitation for students to notice and record all their wonderings, questions, and curiosities over a day or longer.


The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker is a charming and quirky book filled with 131 exercises, meditations, and invitations designed to help us explore our surroundings with joy and curiosity. As Walker writes in the introduction, “Every day is filled with opportunities to be amazed, surprised, enthralled—to experience the enchanting. To be, in a word, alive.”

The activities range from simple (notice something new each day or make an auditory inventory) to more challenging (create a field guide or develop a personal annotated map). This book is a treasure trove of ideas for sending writers out into the world to practice the art of noticing.


In Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor Lynda Barry shares writing and drawing exercises from her classes. One of my favorite activities is called X-Pages. Barry asks her students to draw a large X across a notebook page, creating four large triangles, and spend five minutes recording what they did, what they saw, what they heard, and a sketch from the day.

This nightly five-minute ritual not only encourages writers to be more attentive and observant, it helps generate a large volume of details in the notebook for them to go back into to when looking for seeds of more writing.

A Mind Spread Out

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is a collection of first-person essays by Alicia Elliott, a Tuscarora writer from Six Nations of the Grand River. Each of these essays is powerful in its own way, but the essay called “Half-Breed, A Racial Biography in Five Parts” offers a beautiful mentor structure for writers.

In it, Elliott shares five vignettes from her life—beginning in early childhood, moving through high school, and ending after the birth of her child. These culminate in a final reflection. Students can use this structure to name an aspect of their own identity and write five snapshots to create their own biography in five parts.


Here by Richard McGuire is an astonishing, almost wordless, picture book that tells the story of one corner of one room over thousands of years. The narratives from different times periods are layered across the pages, almost like collages.

This text invites students to visually depict the passage of time in their own lives by marking the changes in one thing, possibly a particular location or a meaningful object.







pumpkinheads coverPumpkinheads is a YA graphic novel created by the well-known writer Rainbow Rowell and the award-winning artist Faith Erin Hicks.

The story is about two high school seniors doing their final night shift together at a seasonal pumpkin patch. After three years of being autumnal best friends and workmates at a famous pumpkin patch, Josiah the MVPPP -Most Valuable Pumpkin Patch Person- and cheerful Deja have differing ideas on what should happen during this final shift. Josiah wants a routine Halloween night shift at the Succotash Hut, but Deja has a plan for the two of them to make the night the best Halloween ever by eating all of their favorite Halloween snacks, and finally getting “Josie” to speak to the co-worker he’s been mooning over for three years, nicknamed “The Fudge Girl.” 

From the first page to the last you can feel and taste the sweetness of friendship and all those amazing autumnal colors and food. I believe it is a story that many YA readers will adore. I very much like the way the story depicts how bittersweet the senior years can be when you are dangling between adolescence and adulthood.

The character strengths of Josiah: hardworking, committed, ambitious, and those of Deja: generous, kind and supportive, along with the themes of empathy, responsibility, cultural diversity and teamwork, work together to create an engaging story. I believe that these two adolescents could be role models for students in many ways and this is one reason why I highly recommend this book.

All in all, Pumpkinheads is more than a story about a last evening at a popular pumpkin patch; it is about authentic friendship and speaking honestly, as can be seen in a few of Deja’s remarks to Josiah during their final shift:

” I’m your friend. And friends don’t let friends live small lives.”

” I can’t ever get a sense of someone until I meet them.”

” We could be friends for all seasons.”

” It’s not fate that brings people together. It’s people!”

” I don’t want this girl to achieve mythical status in your life just because you never talked with her.”

 Rezvan Dehghani, originally from Iran, is an EAL instructor at Devon Middle school in Fredericton, NB.

Our Favourite Books Released in 2019


It is almost time to say farewell to 2019, and with Christmas just a few weeks away, we thought we would share some of our favourite titles released this year (and maybe provide you with ideas for your holiday gift-giving!).









Congratulations to Amy Bourgaize and Lori Jones-Clark for winning #ASDWReads for the month of November! Your prizes will arrive soon! You can enter our December draw by posting your reading on Twitter or Instagram with the #asdwreads!



Just as we encourage our students to abandon books that are not working for them, as teachers we need the same encouragement to abandon literacy practices that are not moving our students towards becoming engaged lifelong readers. The use of reading logs is one of these practices.

There is an abundance of research to support the idea that reading logs do more harm than good and can actually decrease our students’ motivation to read. If our goal is to inspire and engage readers, then we need routines and practices that encourage students to choose books that are interesting to them, to talk about those books and their experiences with them with others, and to authentically share their joys, struggles, and the ways they are moving forward as readers.

If you are interested in ditching those reading logs and trying out a new practice, here are some ideas:

For additional reading and research, here are a few more articles to check out if you want to learn more:

Pernille Ripp: “Before You Assign a Reading Log”
Pernille Ripp: “On Reading Logs”
Pernille Ripp  “Let’s Talk About Reading Logs Again”
Allie Thrower: “Ditching the Reading Logs”
Erica Reischer: “Can Reading Logs Ruin Reading for Kids?”

Creating Space and Time for Book Talk


While visiting literacy classrooms this year we have noticed that students have an intense desire to talk about their reading lives. As literacy teachers we understand the importance of knowing our students as readers and the importance of peer talk around reading, so we love that Megan Young-Jones intentionally builds this time to talk when planning her literacy classes.

MYJ3This week Megan hosted a Book Café for the readers in her classroom. Students brought their books and food (and even blankets!) to the student lounge and formed groups in which they could share their reading. Because this was their first round of talking about their reading in small groups, Megan set them up for success in the following ways:

  • Students were involved in the creation of an anchor chart on what good listening looks like.
  • Teachers from various subject areas were invited to the class to model authentic reader to reader conversations and how you can join a conversation about a book you haven’t read.
  • Pulling lessons on what they might choose to include in their small group conversations from Jennifer Serravallo’s Reading Strategies Book (titles, themes, plot, etc).
  • Providing prompts on cue cards that could be used if needed to facilitate the conversation because this was their first meeting in small groups.

MYJ1As the groups discussed their reading, Megan circulated and gathered assessment on reading and speaking and listening using two checklists she had made using the curriculum outcomes and Provincial Achievement Standards (Formative Assessment Tools are available – login at and then click here .). After reviewing these checklists, she made a list of students she didn’t have the chance to hear talk and plans on conferring with these readers during their next class. Additionally, Megan provided time for students to reflect and provide feedback on this experience in order to inform future reading talk.

The Social Side of Engaged Reading for Adolescents  by Gay Ivey reveals what happens when the space and time is intentionally created for students to talk about the books they are reading. Here are a few of the many points explored in this article:

  • “Because there is collective expertise around books and reading, students come to view each other as resources.”
  • “…(students) often recruited peers to read a book they want to continue thinking about, and students agreed to read the same book so they could talk about it.”
  • “Students even reported making new friends over books. What is more, they begin to see themselves collectively as ‘smarter’.”

Both research and practice are telling us that promoting talk among readers leads to further engagement which then leads to an increase in the volume of reading. It is this volume of reading that improves student achievement. So we urge you all to create the time and space for this to happen.





As teachers of reading, we know the importance and the power of book talks to increase the volume of our students’ reading. One type of book talk you may want to try is the Read-Alike Book Talk, where you take a book that has been flying off the shelf of your classroom library and share titles that have similar themes or characters or are of a similar genre. The following read-alikes for Refugee by Alan Gratz are a combination of titles written in verse and letter forms, graphic novels, pictures books, and biographies.


Refugee by Alan Gratz has been one of the most popular books in classrooms over the past few years. It is a historical (and present day) fiction novel that teaches us about what it was/is like to flee a country, seek refuge, and begin again. The novel tells three stories in three different time periods, all told through the eyes of three children. These children, Josef from Nazi Germany (1938), Isabel from Cuba (1994), and Mahmoud from Syria (2015) remind us to always, always have compassion and kindness for those around us, to not be ignorant, and to stand for what is right.

The Night Diary.jpgThe Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani tells Nisha’s story in India in 1947 when her country separated into India and Pakistan, creating division and violence between Hindus and Muslims as they fled their homes to cross the borders to safety. Nisha is half-Muslim and half-Hindu, leaving her feeling even more confused about where she belongs. When Nisha’s family decides to leave their home and become refugees, Nisha writes about her journey in letters to her mom, who died when she was born.


Other Words for Home.jpgOther Words for Home by Jasmine Warga follows Jude and her pregnant mother as they are forced to flee Syria and move to America, leaving her brother and father behind. As Jude adjusts to a new culture while also longing for her home, she realizes, “I am learning how to be sad and happy at the same time.” She is so wise and brave as she begins to find her way to feeling a sense of belonging while also feeling deep fear about her family’s safety back in Syria.


Inside Out and Back Again.jpgInside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a historical fiction novel in verse that tells 10-year-old Hà’s story as she, along with her mom and brothers, are forced to leave their home in Saigon in 1975 because of the Vietnam War. After traveling by ship and spending time in a refugee camp, her family moves to Alabama to establish a new home. Hà dreams of what her new home will be like, but when she is met with racism, bullying, and constant worry about her father, adjusting to life in America is more difficult than she had hoped.


Grenade.jpgGrenade by Alan Gratz is a historical fiction novel that takes place on the island of Okinawa during World War II. When the Americans arrive on Okinawa to fight the Japanese, a group of middle school boys, including Hideki Kaneshiro, are recruited and given two grenades: one to kill an American soldier and one to kill themselves. Ray is an American Marine whose first mission is on Okinawa. When Hideki and Ray meet in the middle of a battle, they have some difficult decisions to make.


Sea Prayer.jpgSea Prayer [by Khaled Hosseini] was inspired by the story of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach safety in Europe in 2015. In the year after Alan’s death, 4,176 others died or went missing attempting that same journey.” This picture book is a letter a father writes to his young son about their home before the war and during their journey to escape the terror that came. He writes of his memories, his fears, his hopes, his promises, his love.


White Bird.jpgWhite Bird by R.J. Palacio is a graphic novel about one young Jewish girl being separated from her parents and hidden away by another family during The Holocaust during WWII. This beautiful story reminds readers of the powerful and miraculous nature of kindness and courage.



Anne Frank.jpgAnne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation beautifully illustrates Anne Frank’s voice and spirit from her diary, which details her experiences and feelings while being hidden away in a secret annex in her father’s business building for two years during The Holocaust.




The Unwanted.jpg

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees, a non-fiction graphic novel written and illustrated by Don Brown, details facts, timelines, and world politics while also telling of the horrors, the losses, the pain and the hope many Syrian refugees have experiences and continue to experience as they have fled a war zone and tried to find new homes.



Escape from Syria.jpgEscape from Syria by Samya Kullab, Jackie Roche, and Mike Freiheit is a graphic novel that humanizes the current events in Syria and the realities Syrian refugees are facing today in camps and during resettlement in their new homes. The story is told by Amina as her family is forced to flee Aleppo, seek refuge in Lebanon, and cross the ocean to find a new home in the West.


Let me tell you my story.jpgLet Me Tell You My Story: Refugee Stories of Hope, Courage, and Humanity is the compilation of photos and stories collected by a group of photographers, filmmakers, painters, and writers over the course of two years as they documented the flood of refugees coming from the Middle East and Africa to find a new home in the West. This collection is beautiful, haunting, and authentic.

#ASDWREADS October Winners!


Congratulations to Jane Burke, Megan Young-Jones, and Melissa Canam for winning #ASDWReads for the month of October! Your prizes will arrive soon! You can enter our November draw by posting your reading on Twitter or Instagram with the #asdwreads!