(Post from my prior blog, Back in the Classroom.)

On the morning of the conference, we awoke to several inches of snow here in Central Ohio. What a winter it has been! But one thing I know about this conference is “the show must go on!” I’ve always loved the timing of this conference. Between too many snow days and just the dreariness of winter, the Dublin Lit conference always lifts me up and sends me back to school with a renewed enthusiasm. (And this year, I was super-excited to meet some of my Twitter rock stars in person – Chris Lehman, Colby Sharp, and John Schu.) So here’s some highlights of this snowy, yet stellar day of learning:
Despite the snowy roads, I actually arrived a little early so I headed over to the vendors to check in with my favorite independent bookseller, Tami Furlong of Fundamentals. It’s been a crazy busy year between moving and just keeping my classroom going, that I haven’t been book shopping this year as much as usual. It was great to talk new books with Tami for a few minutes before she got super busy … and put aside a few books to start off my pile! (It ended up being quite an expensive day!)

Chris Lehman was the opening keynote of the day.  Words I would never imagine saying in the same sentence are “love” and “close reading”, but Chris showed us how close reading starts with something that you care enough about that you take the time and really notice the tiny details that others may not. You’re willing to (and actually enjoy) revisiting that thing again and again and each time, your experience is heightened. We “closely read” many things in life that are important to us — a favorite spot, a loved ones face, an artifact that reminds us of a treasured time. We want to bring that type of experience into our classrooms as we teach children the habit of reading closely.
Joy … love. That was the message of this opening keynote. That hour alone was worth the tense commute in the deep snow!

I have been following Colby Sharp and John Schu on Twitter for a few years evenr since Donalyn Miller was here and challenged everyone to give it a try. It was great to see these two together talking books and authors. As expected, the time was way too short but I walked away with lots of new titles and a strange urge to start smelling new books! Yes, Mr. Schu makes reading an experience that engages all the senses. I loved all his stories about how he has kids sniffing and savoring the smell of a freshly cracked spine. In both their classrooms, reading is a special event that ends with rowdy celebration. Picture lots of clapping!

Our afternoon began with author Lisa Graff sharing her journey as a reader. Interestingly enough, she went through a phase of trying to read difficult books like Moby Dick and the Bible only to find a series she loved – The Babysitters Club! But all those reading experiences led her to the reader that she became … and she believes that if anyone had told her she couldn’t (or shouldn’t) read certain things, who knows if she would have truly become a reader. Lisa had a very simple presentation – an author and her stories, but she had a message that was far from simple. Readers need to know who they are. I was relieved to hear her share how she is a slow reader, who often doesn’t remember the plots of books she’s read, who can only have one book going at a time. I will admit that I am intimidated at times by Nerdy Book Club Members – people who read a staggering number of books in short periods of time and who actually remember them well! While I thank my lucky stars to have people like Donalyn Miller, John Schu, Colby Sharp, and so many others who can read like that, I know that I cannot. And I thank you, Lisa Graff, for sharing your story and reminding me that it’s perfectly fine to be the reader that you are. In this time of “complex text”, we have to remember that our most important  job is helping students find out who they are as readers. Readers will find their way.

Another great day of celebrating books and authors! I was happy to make it home from the conference with a huge stack of new books. I enjoyed meeting Paul Zelinski who signed Circle, Square, Moose for my Room 22 readers … which I think will be a part of the Mock Caldecott that is going on in my room right now. (I know … Aren’t you supposed to do that before ALA awards? But it’s actually going well after awards.) Now if only the weather would cooperate and get us back in the classroom. Thanks, Dublin for another motivating day – see you next year!



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