It is our pleasure and honor to announce our newest FEATURED SWEETHEART, Sally Kruger! Sally’s passion for young adult literature shines, and she is a dedicated teacher, reviewer, and volunteer.
Check out her Reading Roost: http://readingjunky.blogspot.com/
Here is her bio:
I have spent 32 years teaching primarily 8th grade English in a small town school district in Michigan. Getting involved with reading and reviewing teen fiction has enhanced my teaching by enabling me to connect students to books in a very personal way. In addition to my classroom work, I am also involved with my local public library as president of the board of trustees, and throughout the years, I have made workshop presentations about reading and writing at the local, county, and state level.
TXS: Wow, you’ve been teaching for 32 years! What influenced you to become a teacher, and what keeps you motivated?
SK: The desire to become a teacher began when I was a kid. I was one of those lucky people who had great school experiences, hit on a future career plan, and was able to stick with it and be happy about the choice. I’ve stayed motivated by trying new things in the classroom as much as possible.
Early in my teaching, I was very interested in getting students writing in the classroom. About 15 years ago, I was struck by some research about how much reading can enhance writing and communication skills, and I began reading the books I was asking my students to choose from in my classroom and library. Once I started becoming personally familiar with literature written for teens, I was able to encourage them to read by placing relevant books in their hands and talking with them about those books. Now I’m even more involved through blogging, reviewing, and trying to keep up with the latest stuff out there.
TXS: Do you have any inspiring stories you could share with us? Any advice for aspiring teachers?
SK: The most exciting experiences involve watching as kids discover that reading is something they can actually enjoy, maybe even for the rest of their lives. At our recent parent/teacher conferences a parent talked about his son bringing home a book from my classroom. The parent admitted to listening to his son talk about the book and then picking it up himself and reading it over the course a few days. He even mentioned that his wife complained that he should give it back to their son since he was the one who was supposed to be reading it. His son rolled his eyes when Dad reminded him that he wanted to read the sequel, so please bring it home soon. The student was in my room the next morning asking if he could sign the book out for his dad. I hope when kids see adults they admire reading, it provides positive motivation.
My advice for teachers is to practice what you teach. I have always been dedicated to my classroom and my students, but since I started reading along with them and sharing my experiences with books, my teaching has become more meaningful to me and hopefully, to my students as well. Become actively involved in what you do. I think “burn out” happens when the same practices are used day after day and year after year.
TXS: What are some ways you get your students fired up about reading?
SK: First and foremost, my students see me reading.
I also read aloud to my classes twice a week. Every Tuesday and Thursday they know I will be reading. I’m currently reading IF I GROW UP by Todd Strasser. It is a book about inner city gangs and one boy’s struggle to survive in that environment. It is an entirely different culture than my students experience in our small, Midwestern town. They love this book. When we had a snow day on a Thursday, they were horrified that I missed reading to them. I had to cave to their protests and read on Friday. I planned to anyway. *wink*
A program called Accelerated Reader has also helped me inspire more reading. Our school has had great success with this program that asks students to read and then take computerized tests that measure basic comprehension. The students earn points for each book read and each test passed. I believe the program is successful for us because we keep our book collection current and encourage kids to read books they enjoy. The amount of reading in our school has increased dramatically over the years. Kids carry books with them everywhere and are even caught reading in other classes and in the hall before school, after school, and during lunch. At the halfway point of this school year, my 52 8th graders have read a total of 36,224,663 words. We even provide the opportunity for students to come into school once a week during the summer to pick out books and take the computer tests to earn extra credit points for the following school year.
TXS: How did you get started reviewing young adult books? What have you gained from this experience?
SK: My reviewing work started when I took a few minutes to check out MySpace. My high school aged daughter was getting involved in the social networking world, and I was being a “mom” and checking it out. When I discovered how many young adult/teen authors were hanging out there, I was hooked. I started writing reviews and posting them on my MySpace blog.
The next step in reviewing came when I ran across a website called Teensreadtoo.com administered by the absolutely incredible Jen Wardrip. At the time she called herself a stay-at-home mom, and she was asking for help reviewing young adult fiction. I contacted her and it started a great relationship. I’ve been reviewing there for a couple years, I think. I sort of lose track of time when it comes to this stuff.
Next, it was on to my own blog called Readingjunky’s Reading Roost . Then Facebook surfaced as another networking site. At first I thought no way, but you know how that goes. I now post reviews there, too.
Getting involved on the internet has also helped to motivate some of my students. When I can tell them that they can read about books on the internet, and I can connect them to different sites and blogs, they start visiting them and then start talking about it with each other. This year I inherited 9th grade English along with the 8th graders so I decided to help them create a blog. We now have Fresh Dawgs Book Blog. Using screen names, I am posting their reviews, recommendations, and author interviews as part of their classroom reading requirements. They are excited to see their words on the internet and thrilled when they receive comments from viewers. (Thanks again, Jessica.)
TXS: Could you tell us about your involvement with the Cybils? What was this experience like?
SK: I got involved with the Cybils after seeing a call for judges on their site. I took a chance and sent them my information. As a participant on the first round selection committee for YA fiction, I had a chance to read some terrific books and hook up with some enthusiastic readers. The experience was a humbling one. A number of my fellow group members were much younger, and I discovered, probably much wider read than myself. The insight and opinions they shared about the books we discussed was inspiring and reaffirmed my excitement about what I love to do. I hope I did my job well enough to participate again.
TXS: Thank you, Sally!
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