Guest Blog Post by BreAnn Fennell

BreAnn Fennell is an elementary school teacher from Ohio. She has published two children’s books “Play? Yay!” and “Choose Your Cheer.” She is a defender of play and advocate for children!


Twitter has been a fantastic avenue for me to connect with other educators. Being a teacher, wife, and a mom of two very spirited boys I don’t have a lot of time to sit down. When I saw “From Striving to Thriving” was going to be the focus of my Saturday Morning Chat #bookcamppd I knew I had to pick it up (or put in my cart on Amazon Prime). I loved “From Striving to Thriving” because it was precise, it gave lots of great ideas that you could use right away in the classroom, and it was full of color and celebrated other educators!

The part of the book I most connected to was Chapter 5: Book-Match Relentlessly. This was the part that made me say, “ WOW, I am doing something right and I can’t wait to do it better! “

When I was in sixth grade, I had a fantastic teacher. She had a lovely personality, her room smelled like home, and she had a giant blue elephant on the counter. What I remember most about this teacher is when I came to her as a sixth grader and told her I wanted to read “Little Women” for my book project, she didn’t tell me no, she didn’t tell me that book was going to be too hard for me or I would never be able to read it in a months time. She didn’t even give me the mini -made for kids version. She knew me as a reader and that the book would be a great match for me. “Little Women” is still a favorite of mine, I feel like this quote sums us up as teachers of reading:
“I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle, something heroic or
wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the
watch for it, and mean to astonish you all some day.”
― Louisa May Alcott​, Little Women
Is there anything more heroic than opening up the world to a person by helping them love to read?

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My most favorite thing as a teacher is getting to know my kids as readers so that I can book match with them. I like to challenge, engage, teach strategies, but when I get the right books into the hands of a kid that has been craving a connection to text, it is magic to me. I’ve been known to go the library after a long day of school and pick out the next book in a series for a child who is begging for it. I have had beads of sweat dripping from my forehead as I scoured the library books sales and lugged bags of 25 cent books to my car. I’ve spent nights, summers, and weekends writing projects on DonorsChoose and sharing them with everyone so that I can keep my library full of exciting books chosen by my class. I can tell you what books each student connects with because I have made it the most important part of our reading instruction. Book matching is worth it because they deserve a life that is rich with reading.

Poverty. It’s a word that can impact our readers. I myself came from poverty, however, I didn’t realize it until I noticed not everyone had a little blue lunch ticket indicating that I had free lunches. We can’t assume that our kids have books at home to read or see others reading at home. We can​ send books home. When I read this quote in From Striving to Thriving it impacted me so much, “Even when books are damaged or lost, the money spent on the replacements pales in comparison to money spent on reading interventions.” We need to communicate the importance of reading to parents without making them sign a sheet everyday saying they read with their kids.

In the fall, we take our first graders to the library and send home applications for library cards. Teachers, if you aren’t BFFs with your local librarian you need to take a trip and buy him or her a coffee and sit and talk about how to connect. There are so many opportunities for collaboration because they have ALL the BOOKS!! Our library has free little libraries around town, a summer reading program, and a great children’s area. Send information about library events to your families throughout the school year, trust me, it will help with the volume of books your kids are reading!

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How I set up an area for library books in my room:
Get four Heavy Duty​ bins and number them.
Teach the kids that the books with the barcodes on the back stay in those bins.
Get books from the library.
Rotate the books each week for four weeks.
Return them.
Learn more about your kids.
Get books they love and put in the bins.
Pay a fine for a lost books.
Have kids write down books they’d like you to get this month.
Kids read books and smile.
Kids bring books to you and say, “LOOK it’s the new *insert series name* book!”
Return books.
Kids ask you to renew their favorites.
Kids read more.
Repeat the next school year because it WORKS!

Connect with me on Twitter @PlayYay

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