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The Joys of Guided Reading

You’ve probably noticed that I talk about reading and/or literature in almost all of my posts. I probably always will. I’m one of those crazy librarians who can’t think of a better way to learn about the world than to read a good story. (But if you’ve read more than one post here, you already know that.)

May I have your attention, please?

May I have your attention, please?

The Littles and I share a love of both reading and learning.  We look forward to our school sessions and during breaks we genuinely miss school.  Sometimes we pick a book to read together just for the sheer fun of it, even when school is not in session.  Now let me explain our favorite class: Guided Reading. When I say guided reading, I mean reading aloud together, going over vocabulary from the book, answering questions out of study guides I create for each book, and doing some sort of hands-on activity that helps us keep that day’s chapter in our minds. For me, it’s the most important class we do. For one thing, look at the English language practice we get. Vocabulary, reading comprehension, the chance to discuss grammatical twists and turns, and practice understanding how the language works. The boys take turns reading every other page, and we usually do a chapter a day. If they have questions, we can all stop for the answers before moving on. There’s no confusion or passing over a chance for knowledge because their psyches can’t assimilate the lesson. This helps tremendously when we read books from other centuries like Robinson Crusoe or Oliver Twist (you knew I was going to throw Dickens in there, didn’t you?). Then when we’re done we answer both ‘what happened’ questions and critical thinking questions, because there’s no point in reading a book about the plight of the poor if they don’t know what a plight is or don’t understand just how devastating poverty was in Dickens’ time and is today. Sometimes these books give us the opportunity to explore current events. For instance, has the poverty problem been solved in our world?  And what can we do to help?

Beyond the English language practice, the activities we do might be an art project or a science experiment or anything in between. It’s an opportunity to learn more than just history and language. We can incorporate any subject into these activities, even geography and math. And it’s fun! Guided reading is our very favorite time of the school day.


Right now we’re reading Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright.  If you’ve never heard of this gem, let me tell you, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite chapter books for children.  You know how some authors plant you in that slow, lazy childhood summer place so deeply you feel it wrap you up and spirit you away?  This book has the stuff.  It was first published in 1957, so it has that innocence about it that only mid-20th century children’s books have.  To be honest, the reason I chose it for guided reading right now is I’ve been pushing this book at those boys for a couple of years, practically begging them to read it on their own or for book reports, and they kept passing it over for ‘more exciting’ stories.  I was so afraid they were going to miss out on this beautiful, amazing  story because it didn’t have zombies or Greek gods in it.  Solution?  Make it a class.

And you know what?  They Love This Book.  We’ve laughed together over how much they like it after all that stubborn refusal to read it.  And hopefully I’ve convinced them to try a new genre.  Hopefully, as they grow, they will be like me and want to know All The Stories in the world, regardless of genre or age level.  Well, maybe not, since it’s impossible to achieve and it leaves you with this wistful longing to be reading even when you’re having the time of your life.  And wondering every time you pass a house, a field, or another person, what the story is there if you can find it in a book.  Hmm.

Nah, let them be wistful.  So long as they are readers.

Guided reading is an amazing way to dig in deep with your littles, introduce them to books they may not otherwise read, and supplement your learning experience with a lot of fun.  There are novel studies and lesson plans all over the interweb and soon I’ll be opening my own shop to offer you some affordable novel studies so you don’t have to do the work all by yourself!  Pick a book, find some questions and activities to go along with it, and guide your littles through the glorious pages.  And check back here in a few weeks.  I should have several Lit Looking Glass Novel Studies up and ready for you.

Shamelessly plugging.

Love wins,



YA Book Review: The Maypop Kidnapping (And Winner of Cogling Giveaway!!)


Sometimes you just want to read something a little lighter.  Don’t you?  After the created worlds of Ivanovich’s War of Princes and Elizabeth’s Cogling, it was nice to go to Maiden Rock, Maine, and solve a simple mystery with a 13-year-old girl.  I just love sinking into a good middle grade book.  It reminds me of being 12 myself–that age where you’re still a child and you still kind of feel like a child but you also feel so very grown up and ready to make your own decisions.  Such a pivotal point in the human life.  I don’t think we ever forget what it feels like, and fortunately for us, C. M. Surrisi remembers it very well and writes about it even better.

In The Maypop Kidnapping, Quinnie Boyd is (awesomely) a homeschooler, tutored by an amazing woman named Ms. Stillford.  This year, Quinnie’s very best friend, schoolmate, and next-door neighbor, Zoe, has gone to Scotland with her family and a new family is staying in Zoe’s house.  The father is a crime novelist and the daughter is Quinnie’s age, so she will be tutoring with Ms. Stillford alongside Quinnie.  The first day of school comes… and goes.  No Ms. Stillford.  Quinnie is worried but her mom, who is the sheriff, isn’t nearly as concerned.  Quinnie decides to launch her own investigation, intent on finding and rescuing Ms. Stillford.  She enlists the help of her friend and crush, Ben, and the new girl, Mariella–even though she’s pretty sure Ben likes Mariella, which is The Worst.  As the suspects mount up, Quinnie and her friends face danger after danger… and the loss of a lot of cell phones.

This book could have sucked and I probably wouldn’t have noticed it, mostly because I Was Had within the first couple of pages.  Specifically by this line: I consider then reject that our new novelist neighbor will look anything like Benedict Cumberbatch or even be as Maine-cool as Stephen King.

Oh. Yeah.  Worship King with me and it’s like you had me at hello.

But this book did not suck.  The voice is perfect–just old enough to hold the interest of your teen and just young enough to engage your tween or younger readers.  What I loved was that while sometimes the danger was quite palpable, no one really got hurt.  And even those crimes that were committed weren’t as serious as may have been supposed.  If you have a little who loves a good mystery, this book is excellent for all ages.  Even us grown ups.

And now on to the exciting news… The Winner of the Cogling e-book giveaway.

Cogling Giveaway

(Drumroll, please.)

The winner is

Hilary L.

Hilary, I’ll be shooting you an email to find out what type of file you prefer.  Congratulations!!  I hope you enjoy Cogling as much as I did.

Love wins,


This post is linked to Literary Musings Monday blog hop

And yes, there were affiliate links.

YA Book Review and Giveaway: Cogling


Jordan Elizabeth is not only a great YA author, she is one cool lady.  In Cogling, Edna’s little brother, Harrison is stolen by Hags-replaced with a construct made of his breath, magic, and a pocketwatch: a cogling.  Edna will stop at nothing to get her real brother back.  Teaming up with an unlikely accomplice, Edna leaves the only place she has ever known and heads for the swamp where the Hags live, intent on rescuing her brother.  Along the way, she discovers conspiracies and secrets all around her.  Monsters help and hinder her.   Her greatest ally reveals that he is not what he first seemed.  Amidst all this intrigue, can Edna save her brother and, perhaps, the kingdom?

Cogling is filled with Elizabeth’s trademark kindness to animals and tolerance of others themes.  Though the creatures in this steampunk glory are fantastical (think scurrying soot demons instead of mice and foxkins who are hunted like foxes even though they wear clothes and can speak), Elizabeth leaves no doubt that cruelty and intolerance are not her cup of tea.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t heavy-handed stuff.  You pick it up from Edna’s thoughts and reactions, and you can’t help but feel the same way.  Which is a really good way to sneak in a lesson against prejudice on your littles.  Yeah yeah.

One of the things I love about Elizabeth’s books is that she never quite ends them where you expect them to end.  She always has something else to say.  The poetically cryptic chapter headings intrigued me just as much as the story did.  The lavishly built world through which Edna and Ike fight their way to truth and tolerance is never boring, and the perils our heroes face are many and varied.  Listen, this book is one harrowing adventure after another.  Edna grows from a meek, uncertain thing into a heroine with real backbone.  Ike forgives himself for a past over which he had no control anyway.  And the kingdom… Well, I’ll let you read it and find out for yourself.

I would caution that while there is no sex in the book, there are some allusions to it that you might feel are too much for your tween or early teen.  I’ll leave that up to you–every parent has her own threshold.  Regardless, Cogling is a wonderful fantasy adventure with believable characters set in a rich world that rivals any invented.  It’s an excellent read.

Because I loved it so much, and because Jordan is just cool like that, I’m offering a free e-copy to a winning reader.  Jordan has said she can provide a mobi, epub, or pdf copy directly to the winner.  So make sure you enter, and you can read this excellent novel for yourself.  You have until midnight on  Monday, February 15, to enter , and I will announce the winner during next Tuesday’s YA Book Review.  Good luck!

If you want to learn more about Jordan and her other books, you can visit her website.

Cogling Giveaway


a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is linked to Literary Musings Monday Blog Hop

Also, there was an affiliate link

Also… Just kidding.

14 Fabulous Sites for Free Homeschooling

14 fabulous sites for free homeschooling

Sometimes, life hands you a blog post.  I had intended to write about something very different today, but last night a woman I like very much pm’d me on Facebook.  Her daughter is about to start homeschooling her own littles, and she wondered if I could advise them where to go to get free curriculum.  I started getting the list together for her, and I realized this list might benefit a whole lot of people, even veterans looking to spruce up their schooling plans.  So rather than pm her back and keep all this yummy goodness between us, I thought it might be a good idea to share it with you, too.  I’m cool like that.

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