How I learned to stop worrying and write curriculum about Bomb

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin

One of the projects I am involved in is a program where a group of retired folks work in schools to facilitate after-school reading groups with middle graders. One piece of my work is to write curriculum about books that (we hope) are high-interest and wide-ranging in subject, so groups will have many options as […]

Historical fiction — why didn’t I use it more?

One Crazy Summer

A librarian friend of mine* recently asked me why historical fiction doesn’t make its way into social studies and language arts classrooms more often. The thought keeps rattling around in my brain. First, I should say that I don’t know for sure that there aren’t tons of classrooms where historical fiction is a great pillar […]

Narrative nonfiction in middle school

Phineas Gage

You may have inferred from my first post in February that I am spending a lot of time thinking about nonfiction for middle school readers. We all know now that nonfiction figures prominently in the Common Core State Standards. In fact, we are told that 60% of a 7th grader’s reading diet ought to be […]

“Where do you buy these?”

Barnes and Noble at Cherry Hill, NJ.

Eight years ago, the question shocked me: “Mr. Ribay, where do you buy these?” The student was holding up a book. He had no idea where to buy a book. That was my first year teaching in Camden, NJ and the first time I had ever encountered someone who had to ask this question. But […]

Marrying accountability and independent reading

The book nook in Elizabeth's classroom

My middle school remedial reading students come to me with a wide variety of reading profiles, interests and needs. Yet one thing almost all of my students have in common is that they begin the year as students who have spent very little time reading. In order to combat this problem, our classroom book nook […]

Middle Grade Saved My Life

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Bad things were done to me when I was small. Lacking adequate physical defenses, I escaped into my imagination, where I could be all-powerful and the scariest monster was the witch in my closet. Imagination expands when exercised; mine grew strong and wily, 
and a pleasure to me, too, when the bad things were in […]

Middle-school reading for Black History Month

Zora!

Four nonfiction books on African American history for middle-school readers.