Jaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been modeling how to do a close reading at several different grade levels. To close out the series: Close Reading in Fifth Grade using the X level text Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall.
One way to structure close reading questioning is to use the format laid out by the Institute for Learning of the University of Pittsburgh. Under their framework, students read the text selection four times: first, to get the gist; second, to find significant moments or ideas; third, to interpret the ideas in the text; and finally, to analyze the author’s methods (craft). Here’s an example of how to plan out your questions for close reading of the first poem of Under the Mesquite, entitled “the story of us.”
I’ve been travelling to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas a lot these days, visiting with some wonderful librarians, sharing my story with some amazing students, and just enjoying the adventures this burgeoning writing life is affording me.
Road trips have always been a meditative time for me, a time to be thankful for the blessings in my life and ponder the rest. I listen to the silence of the road, look at the scenery, and engage in prayer. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about being an author and wondering if this is going to be my next career, if I will be fortunate enough to have more books published. Not that I am doubting myself, no, it is more that I am feeling so privileged I don’t want to lose myself in the awesomeness of it all. I don’t want to let it go to my head. I want to always remain true to myself, my culture, and my faith.
In this excerpt from her 2012 Pura Belpré acceptance speech, Under the Mesquiteauthor Guadalupe Garcia McCall shares how writing the book helped her heal and brought her closer to her father:
My life with my mother was full of love and acceptance. I was blessed to be her daughter, even if for a little while. That’s why I wanted Under the Mesquite to be a true reflection of her nature. I wanted it to do what she did best—to nurture young people’s dreams, to give them the courage and strength to pursue those dreams. Writing Mesquite was both wonderful and painful. For in the process of writing this book, I pulled out and dusted off memories I had set aside, memories I had tucked into deep crevices in my heart, put away for fear of losing them. I am glad they are written down now. My mother lives because this book exists. It is her nurturing spirit that resides in these pages, her wisdom, her love, and I am so happy to be able to share her with you.
We had a great time this year at the American Library Association in Anaheim! It’s been a while since we were out on the West Coast, and it was fun to be able to see old friends who we haven’t seen in a while and make some new ones, too. Attendance was high, enthusiasm was up, and we had a lot of fantastic conversations about both bookish and non-bookish things. A few things I learned from the people I met at ALA, in no particular order:
1. E-books haven’t wiped out hard copies of books yet – especially picture books, and especially in school libraries. “Please don’t stop printing your books,” one school librarian told me. “We can’t do anything with e-books; we need hard copies.”
2. Everyone loves nonfiction these days. Or, if they don’t love it, they’re still looking for more of it, thanks to the new Common Core State Standards.
3. The West Coast equivalent of the Mets/Yankees “Subway Series,” a game between the Angels and the Dodgers, is called a “Freeway Series.” Go figure!
Like dating, designing the right cover for a book can be a long, arduous process. Sometimes a cover gives off the wrong impression. Sometimes it’s too showy, sometimes it’s too dull. Sometimes a cover says all the right things, butlacks sincerity.
But sometimes, you find The One. And you just know.
That was the case with the cover of Summer of the Mariposas, coming this fall from our Tu Books imprint. Summer of the Mariposas, by Guadalupe Garcia McCall,is a YA retelling of The Odyssey set in Mexico. It follows Odilia and her sisters on their quest to return a dead man to his family (you can read an excerpt of the book here).