Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Book Giveaway! Sisters, Strangers, and Starting Over

I'm hosting a book giveaway on behalf of Hachette Book Group.  There will be three winners, who will each win a copy of Sisters, Strangers, and Starting Over by Belinda Acosta. 

Beatriz Sánchez-Milligan is shocked when her 14-year-old niece, Celeste, stumbles into her 25th wedding anniversary party. Celeste reveals that her mother, Perla, has died and that she has nowhere else to go. Beatriz immediately takes Celeste in - a decision that troubles her husband, Larry, who remembers that wherever Perla went, trouble followed. He worries his wife is rushing in without having all the facts. Undaunted, Beatriz begins to plan a quinceañera for Celeste; but the party planning doesn't comfort Celeste, nor does it ease Beatriz's pain.  -Hachette Book Group

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To win a book, please comment here by July 31, and share your thoughts on sisters, whether you have sisters or not. When you comment, please leave an email address or link to a site where you can be contacted. Winners must be US or Canadian residents. No PO Boxes please. Winners will be selected and announced on August 1.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Realzar... La Raza

I was invited to attend the National Council of La Raza 2010 Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas, July 10 - 14. The call was totally unexpected and very short notice, causing me to hesitate and think I'd need to sleep on it.  But I didn't need to think on it too much; how could I not go?  I've been a long time supporter of NCLR and its ideals, and to think that I've been given yet another opportunity to be with people who work toward the same things as I do... well, it means a lot.  And as my husband said, when I was on the fence about going, "You have to go. It's your thing!"

NCLR is "the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States".  I'm excited to listen to the conference speakers, learn new things about community and advocacy at the workshops, and network with people from across the country.  You can be sure that I'll be seeking out other educators and advocates for English Language Learners.  While there, I'll be tweeting my experiences @CassyLL.  Do follow!

I'm a proud Latina and I feel it's my obligation to support other Latinos, especially my students and their families.  While at the NCLR conference, I'll draw fuerzas y animo from the other participants - strength and encouragement, for the work that lies ahead of me.  Mi gente... I'm so excited! 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bitter fruit

I was recently at an informal gathering of coworkers, all of whom work at school in some capacity.  It was nice to see everyone in summer mode, wearing t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops... sipping on cold drinks and enjoying chips, burgers and dogs, fresh fruit, and key lime pie.  The relaxed atmosphere was very pleasant, something I know everyone needed after a long and stressful school year.

However, some of the conversation troubled me.  I was disappointed to hear some people talk so poorly about the kids they worked with.  I hated hearing some of them preface several negative comments with "these parents".  I cringed when one of them - the same one I've seen being downright abusive to children - talked about how much she "couldn't stand them".  A few of them even mentioned the many ways they "got away with" stuff all year... I don't even want to go in to detail. 

Some of us stayed quiet, listened, maybe raised an eyebrow.  We made eye-contact, some of us, and in that mirada said to each other, "look what they're doing to our kids".  Some of us, for whom teaching and advocating for children has become our life's work... nos quedamos calladas, we remained silent.

Inwardly, I was giving these gals a piece of my mind; I wish I could tell them to GO elsewhere with their bad attitude and mediocrity.  If only I could say out loud that I blame them for the way things have gone sour in this profession.  I wanted to say something. I wanted to speak up for the kids and their parents.  I wanted to tell them...

And if I had said something... would they have even listened?  I can only hope the summer rest will sweeten their outlook a bit.  It's not so much that I care about them - I'm thinking about the little kids they'll meet in September.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sensing and Connecting

I had always thought that the connections we make between life experiences and the five senses were fascinating.  Several years ago, upon reading A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman, I became even more aware of the ways in which I perceived particular moments in time, as well as how others "sensed" them.  Ackerman explores the senses in historic and vivid detail in this engrossing book which I go to again and again.  I highly recommend it.

My interest in this topic was peaked again when I came across A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass.  This young adult novel is about Mia, a 13-yr old for whom letters, numbers, and sounds have color.  In the course of the novel she is diagnosed with synesthesia - "a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway." (Wikipedia)  How fascinating! 

While we watch Mia struggle with her condition in this story, we also get to see the reactions of people who are close to her.  This is a story about growing up, discovering who you are, friendship, and family.  I enjoyed it.

As soon as I started A Mango-Shaped Space, I began making connections to A History of the Senses, which was a nonfiction piece.  This kind of text-to-text connection makes learning concrete.  It's a big part of teaching reading to children.  Being aware of these connections makes us better readers and teachers!