My Name is Layla Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

As I mentioned in my last post, “10 Reading Comprehension Tips“, middle and high school students are living in a text heavy world. They need to have strong reading skills to navigate reading textbooks, emails, writing lab reports, etc. But, what happens when a student is a struggling reader?

My Name is Layla, by Reyna Marder Gentin, is a realistic depiction of a dyslexic middle school student.

Layla, or ‘munk to her mom and older brother, is an eighth grade student who struggles with reading and writing assignments. Her best friend Liza and her neighbor Sammy, help Layla through the ups and downs of middle school life.

Layla

Like all middle school students, Layla wants to fit in. She worries about what she wears on the first day of school, what the popular girl thinks, and she worries that her teachers think she lacks intelligence. She envies Sammy, whose family sits down for dinner together every night, since Layla’s mom is a nurse who works the night shift and her dad has been out of the picture for 12 years.

On top of all this, she has a secret that she doesn’t share with anyone. It takes her a long time to read. “The words hop around like any good bunny should, refusing to stay still so I can get a grip on what they mean.” (15). The pressure to read quickly in class and get through homework each night is a lot for this thirteen-year-old, and she is used to low grades. For writing assignments, she struggles to get ideas from her head, through her fingertips on a keyboard and in an email to her English teacher, Mr. McCarthy. Through her frustrations, she has learned how to cope by watching movie versions of books to assist her in getting through assignments.

As a middle school English teacher, I can honestly say that the depiction of Layla is incredibly accurate. She avoids reading aloud in class or participating so she doesn’t bring attention to herself. She will submit gibberish writing out of pure frustration and she relies on her best friend to help her navigate projects. Layla’s emotions of anger, confusion, fear, and self-doubt resonate with readers on multiple levels as the school year progresses.

Plot

I really enjoyed the multiple layers happening in this book. The main conflict is Layla’s reading difference, but there is also a fair share of minor conflicts as well. As with any teenager, there are internal conflicts about her mom working and her dad not being present (until later in the book), problems with friends that involve trust, and the innocent buds of a potential first romantic relationship with a boy. Teenagers take everything to heart and can be very sensitive to change, as readers see when Nick suffers an injury in basketball. This book touches on all of the important themes in a young adult’s life: family, friends, relationships, and self-image.

Theme of Family

Today, families come in all shapes, sizes and forms and I really like that Marder Gentin chose to focus on a non-traditional family structure. Readers see Layla’s mom work overnight shifts, catching some sleep during the day to just repeat the routine again. She takes on extra shifts whenever she can in order to provide for her children, yet she will show up to basketball games and the first day of school when her children need her support. While Layla and her brother do have freedom after school, neither one of them takes advantage of this and continue to do homework, go to basketball practice and socialize with friends without getting into trouble. This maturity and self-reliance teach readers that being independent is important in life.

While no family is perfect, readers can empathize with Layla’s desire to have more family around for holidays, like Sammy’s. Or to have a mom that is very actively involved in her school life, like Liza’s mom. However, through her interactions with her friends, readers are reminded that each family has their own problems even if the outside world does not see them. For many teens, this nugget of wisdom is important because they don’t realize others may feel the same way they do.

Theme of Friendship

Friends are without a doubt the most important aspect of a teenager’s life, according to them. Establishing and maintaining true friendships takes time and effort on all parts, along with honesty. Typically, in YA books I find that there is often a backstabbing or betrayal between friends that causes a conflict. That doesn’t happen in My Name is Layla. In fact, Liza is an incredibly kind young lady (I hope my daughter has a Liza for a best friend in middle school). Liza knows that Layla struggles, but instead of ignoring this, Liza offers assistance to her friend wherever and however she can. From reminding her what class they have, or being partners for an in-class assignment, Liza takes Layla under her wing and supports her friend. There is never any negative comment made and Layla always feels comfortable.

Sammy. Ah, if there was ever a character I wanted to hug for being a good kid, it’s Sammy. His obvious crush on Layla isn’t the normal teenage kind. He truly likes Layla for who she is and wants to help her in his own way. I LOVE that he has the courage to ask Layla on a date to the basketball game and doesn’t leave her side when Nick gets injured. He mentions the Learning Center at school in the hopes of giving Lyla support in English. Through it all, Sammy is right there to help his neighbor (and girlfriend!).

Learning Differences and Dyslexia

Every single child learns differently. Some students show their struggles more than others, which is why there are always those that manage to “get by” in elementary school and part of middle school, but at some point someone notices.

Mr. McCarthy was Layla’s someone. He saw past her coping mechanisms and reached out to his school’s administration and helped create a plan for Layla (after a MAJOR plot twist that I refuse to mention). There were clues along the way that McCarthy was onto Layla, but she continued to plug along just “getting by”.

As I said before, teenagers worry about what others think of them. They never want to be “different”, especially at this stage. Layla is no exception to this because she cringes at the thought of going to see Mrs. Hirsch in the Learning Center.

What I LOVE about this book is the realistic way Marder Gentin has captured a teenager’s feelings when dealing with a learning difference. Readers experience the incredible emotions and thoughts that students cope with on a daily basis. As adults, we are reminded that these feelings need to be addressed when offering help to students. Anxiety and fear are incredibly consuming at this age, yet we need to provide the proper support.

Teachers like Mr. McCarthy and Mrs. Hirsch literally change lives.

Free Curriculum Guide

As always, my teacher heart gets insanely excited when there are resources to extend themes and learning in books. I will admit, I’m very picky with curriculum guides for my middle school learners, but this one is absolutely perfect! Not only is it aligned to the Common Core, it hits on all major teaching points for middle school English. There are plenty of discussion questions that can be used in small groups or whole class, it includes a few different activities for students (even some writing ones), a character chart with adjectives and practice with textual evidence and making inferences and drawing conclusions! AND, it’s also *FREE* on the author’s website! Pure perfection!

Never have I read a young adult book that hits on so many real-life issues for teens with so much accuracy. I highly recommend this book for parents and students in middle and high school, especially those with learning differences. Students will find comfort in knowing that they are not alone.

To purchase this book head over to Amazon.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Mini Movers and Shakers: Anne Frank Book Review

I will be the first to say that I am not a history person, but there are specific time periods that do interest me. One of those is WWII all because of a young girl named Anne Frank. I was always a fan of the Dear America series as a kid, and in middle school there was just something about Anne Frank’s diary that helped me wrap my head around the historical events.

Anne Frank, written by Mary Nhin and illustrated by Yulia Zolotova, is an insightful picture book about the life of one of the strongest young women in history.

My readers know I am no stranger to Mary Nhin books (How to Win the World Cup in Your Pajamas, Arial the YouTuber, and eNinja to name a few), but when I saw that she was starting a new series called Mini Movers and Shakers and one of my personal favorite figures was to be featured, I instantly added the book to my ‘To Read List’.

Right away readers connect with young Anne because the story is told from her point of view. The writing is simple, yet mature enough for elementary school students to read. Nhin simplifies the events of Anne’s life, but does not water them down, which I really enjoyed. Vocabulary words like ‘invaded’ and ‘confidante’ give this text a more sophisticated feel that I was personally drawn to as a middle and high school teacher.

The illustrations really elaborate and explain the main ideas in the text, helping readers with their comprehension. I especially liked the map of Germany because it provides a visual to those children not familiar with the other side of the world. The Reading Specialist in me got excited that this text provided necessary background information to support reading comprehension.

It’s very clear that Nhin spent time researching her facts, and that she is a mom because she’s able to express these nuggets of information in a kid-friendly way. I even learned some new things about Anne Frank! The tone is friendly, as though Anne is speaking to the reader like a new friend. Kids are also to pick up on themes of perseverance, faith, courage, and family throughout the book.

Personally, I would use this in the classroom as a cross-curricular activity with social studies. It does a phenomenal job of introducing children to the events of WWII and the Holocaust. I would recommend this book for children ages 3-11.

*Be sure to check out more books in the Movers and Shakers series

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

I Can Handle it! Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I always say that Molly, my four year old, is my mini me. The similarities really come out when she’s being emotional, which happens more frequently the older that she gets. As a parent, I use all the patience I can muster to calm her down and allow her to express her thoughts. As my readers know, I tend to use books for pretty much everything, and I’m happy to report that I have found the perfect book to help my child cope with her emotions.

I Can Handle it!, written by Laurie Wright and illustrated by Ana Santos, is a practical picture book that breaks down emotions and coping strategies for kids to help with mental health.

Readers follow Sebastien, a little boy, as he tackles emotions that he feels based on different events and situations he experiences. Each scenario provides three or four possible solutions for dealing with the issue, some are absolutely meant to be funny, and some are solid suggestions.

I really like that the story is told like a pattern. Readers anticipate what the next emotion will be and look forward to reading the different options Sebastien has for tackling his feelings. The wording and language is clear and concise, making it so even the littlest reader can understand the story. The illustrations do a fabulous job of capturing the facial expressions that all parents and educators will be familiar with when it comes to emotions that kids feel. It makes the character come to life and seem more realistic.

The scenarios mentioned are 100% on point. For instance, my child absolutely gets cranky when she can’t watch her TV show (she will react if you threaten to put on an adult show). Every single reader can relate to Sebastien and his feelings, thus creating trust between the character and reader. This is really important for this picture book because it shows kids different ways to handle situations that they can use in their life. It’s teaching kids in a fun and creative way.

One of my favorite scenes is where Sebastien is feeling bored when he is stuck at home. The suggestions for handling this situation include making slime, building a fort or video calling friends. I really appreciated how trendy and realistic these ideas for combating boredom are as a parent.

I recommend this book for kids ages 2-6. I can see it being used in the classroom as a read aloud activity to connect with social-emotional learning.

To purchase the book, click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

Homeschool Logic Lessons for Gifted and Talented Kids Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

As the parent of a preschooler (EEK!), I’m always on the look out for ways to supplement her education outside of the classroom. The majority of parents are concerned about their child’s letter and sound knowledge and counting abilities. But, what can we do for kids who are ahead of their class at this stage?

Homeschool Logic Lessons for Gifted and Talented Kids, by Smarty Buddy LLC, is a color workbook geared towards preschool and kindergarten students that provides enrichment activities and assessments.

Over the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to work with homeschool families. This book has everything a homeschool family needs to provide additional challenges to their little learners. It’s easy to use, includes clear directions, and offers multiple practice opportunities.

The organization is superb! The table of contents is extremely helpful and well laid out, making the book very user friendly. Each section is dedicated to a different skill, so there’s no weeding through trying to find what you’re looking for. The book offers nine lessons include the following: picture classification, figure classification, picture analogies, figure analogies, number analogies, number series- abacus puzzle, paper folding, sentence completion, and number puzzles. The premise of the book is to help foster students’ cognitive abilities.

As an educator, I like that the lessons and practice activities are in the beginning of the book, there’s a full assessment is at the end, and an answer key! The lessons include really clear step-by-step directions, allowing instructors to explain the lesson with ease. The pictures included are relatable concepts to preschoolers and kindergarteners, and the visual aids really help with comprehension.

Parents and educators can give the assessment all at once when the lessons and practice activities are completed, or give each section individually when a skill is completed. This allows for parents and educators to customize instruction based on their learner’s individual needs.

I recommend this book for homeschool families, parents and early childhood educators teaching preschool and kindergarten learners.

To purchase the book click here.

For more products and apps by Smarty Buddy LLC, click here.

Friendship Has No Color Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

For kids, friendships are one of the biggest aspects of their lives. Moving and making new friends can always been a scary concept, but there are always sweet kids happy to make a new student feel included.

Friendship Has No Color, by Christopher Gordon, is a realistic picture book that celebrates diversity and teaches readers the importance of treating others with respect, regardless of their race.

Christopher Gordon has created The Warrior of Good Values, a superhero that teaches children valuable life lessons. I first met this hero in Timothy’s Lesson in Good Values, so I was super excited for this latest story.

Max is an African American student who has just moved to the neighborhood. Emily, a bi-racial little girl, instantly becomes friends with Max and at school introduces him to her other friends, Timothy and Billy. During recess, Max and Emily are excluded from playing because of the color of their skin and the texture of their hair by Jason, a Caucasian boy. The Warrior of Good Values arrives just in time to help explain the importance of treating everyone fairly.

The layout of this book is very engaging. Gordon is also an incredible graphic designer and he brings his talents to the text. The pictures help support the text and aid readers in reading comprehension. They also give the book a sort of graphic novel ish feel in a way, that I think connects really well with struggling readers because the pages don’t feel overwhelmed with text. I especially liked the character page at the beginning of the text, which is an aspect I don’t see very often in books.

I found the plot to be well thought out and realistic. We know that readers can face difficult situations in their lives, and one of the toughest environments is the playground. This story explains and shows readers the importance of not only including others, but being respectful in our thoughts and actions as well.

One of my favorite pages is when all the children think about their individual differences. Every single one of us is different in our own way and it is a beautiful thing. Even though our physical appearances may differ, on the inside we all have hearts and feelings. This page does an incredible job of showing readers that there are lots of differences between all of us, and that’s okay.

The last page of the book includes a bonus to help readers reflect on what they learn in the book. There is a short writing activity with lines provided and a coloring page, making this accessible to all types of learners.

I suggest this book for children in K-3. This book would work really for lessons on diversity and bullying.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

Who Has A Pet Hedgehog? Book Review

Pets are a topic that kids love to read and talk about. The most common pet books I see are about dogs and cats, with some minor characters including fish and birds. I was intrigued to come across a book about a different type of pet.

Who has a Pet Hedgehog?, written by Jan Heng and illustrated by Tan Su En, is a delightful picture book about having a pet hedgehog.

Victoria has an African pygmy hedgehog named Odin, and readers learn all about taking care of a pet hedgehog, which is very different than taking care of a cat or dog.

First, I have to say that I really enjoyed the set up of this book. It really provides fantastic details about facts and the responsibilities needed to take care of this kind of pet, and includes great illustrations. The sentence structure is varied and reads really well. The font is reader-friendly for all types of readers (side note: I totally helped the author pick the font for this book!).

I consider myself an experienced reader with lots of background knowledge. Growing up, I had a friend named Kayla who had a pet hedgehog, so I was able to draw on some text to self connections while reading this story. However, there were so many facts about hedgehogs that I didn’t know until I read this book! Did you know that hedgehogs are nocturnal? Did you know they like to munch on three different types of worms? These facts were described so perfectly in the story that kids won’t even realize they’re learning new information. And the pictures really do a lovely job supporting the text with visuals to help in reading comprehension. The illustrations also show how absolutely adorable these little guys are and it really makes me want to get one for Molly one day.

I would recommend this book for kids ages P-8.

To purchase the book click here.

For more information about the book click here.

Who Has A Pet Hedgehog? Book Review

Pets are a topic that kids love to read and talk about. The most common pet books I see are about dogs and cats, with some minor characters including fish and birds. I was intrigued to come across a book about a different type of pet.

Who has a Pet Hedgehog?, written by Jan Heng and illustrated by Tan Su En, is a delightful picture book about having a pet hedgehog.

Victoria has an African pygmy hedgehog named Odin, and readers learn all about taking care of a pet hedgehog, which is very different than taking care of a cat or dog.

First, I have to say that I really enjoyed the set up of this book. It really provides fantastic details about facts and the responsibilities needed to take care of this kind of pet, and includes great illustrations. The sentence structure is varied and reads really well. The font is reader-friendly for all types of readers (side note: I totally helped the author pick the font for this book!).

I consider myself an experienced reader with lots of background knowledge. Growing up, I had a friend named Kayla who had a pet hedgehog, so I was able to draw on some text to self connections while reading this story. However, there were so many facts about hedgehogs that I didn’t know until I read this book! Did you know that hedgehogs are nocturnal? Did you know they like to munch on three different types of worms? These facts were described so perfectly in the story that kids won’t even realize they’re learning new information. And the pictures really do a lovely job supporting the text with visuals to help in reading comprehension. The illustrations also show how absolutely adorable these little guys are and it really makes me want to get one for Molly one day.

I would recommend this book for kids ages P-8.

To purchase the book click here.

For more information about the book click here.

The Edupreneur’s Side Hustle Handbook Book Review

Since I began teaching I’ve always had at least one part time job. I’ve tutored, been an official scorer for Pearson, and taught Saturday school. I’ve always had big dreams, but living on a teacher salary isn’t that easy.

A year and a half ago I decided to completely change my life. I took a really big risk (switching from being a full time virtual teacher to a part time one) to follow an idea.

Today, in addition to offering tutoring services, Little Reading Coach has a YouTube channel, a blog :), a Teachers Pay Teachers store, and some additional happenings coming soon. I’m an edupreneur. And, guess what, you can be one, too!

The Edupreneur’s Side Hustle Handbook: 10 Successful Educators Share Their Top Tips, is an incredible guide to help inspire and motivate teachers to make a difference (and make money).

I came across this book while scrolling through Instagram, since the book was released in May. I’ve been following Jen Jones (an incredible literacy guru) for a while, and I often wonder, “how does she do it?”. This book finally answered my question!

Readers learn about how 10 educators (Eric Crouch, Lisa Dunnigan, Kristen Donegan, Michelle Ferre, Cynthia Frias, Jen Jones, Kisha Mitchell, Kayse Morris, Bryce Sizemore, and Tosha Wright) not only got started, but created brands for themselves in the education world that isn’t in teaching or administration. As teachers, we often feel that we are limited in making money in the system, but these inspiring educators show readers how to take their experience and passion and turn it into a side hustle. YouTube, podcasts, professional development, TpT, and more are mentioned to show teachers the possibilities that exist.

Being super transparent, I LOVED this book. I have one word to describe all of these authors: honest. Each and every single one of them discuss all sides of having a successful side hustle. There are no Instagram filters used to focus on the glamor. These edupreneur’s give readers the good, the bad and the ugly about teaching, wanting to make a difference, starting a business, and making money. The amount of hours, weeks, months and years they have put into gaining followers and creating quality products reminds us that success does not happen overnight.

The structure of this book is truly like a handbook. Throughout the text there are places for readers to stop and reflect using questions based on the passage. The questions are thought-provoking and are meant to help readers brainstorm and think outside the box. Each author has their own chapter, which is broken up into sections. The length of each section is ideal, not once did I start to zone out or flip a few pages to move ahead. The writings are concise, informative and personal, which is a superb combination because it allows readers to relate to the author’s while learning important business aspects. I felt like I was getting advice from friends. There are also key ideas and tips highlighted throughout the book in bullet form, text box or italicized to help emphasize some of the big ideas. Yay text features!

This book will ignite a fire in any educator thinking about starting a side hustle. Readers will not only feel informed about the business side of this industry, but also supported because the experts share so much about their personal experiences. My biggest takeaway from this handbook is to go for it. So what if there are YouTube channels already out there. So what if there are a million TpT stores. Go for it.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

My Hair Went On Vacation Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Being a book reviewer for the last few years has allowed me to connect with incredible people. The love and passion that my author friends put into their books is evident to all readers, and today’s book is one of those that truly tugged at my heart strings.

My Hair Went on Vacation, by Paula Quinn and illustrated by Chirara Civati, is a heartfelt picture book about a little girl’s journey with alopecia.

One day, Rosie wakes up with her hair missing from her head. She tells readers that her hair is on vacation and we see her navigate the real world with a bald head. Rosie endures mean comments from kids at school, and her family gives her strength. Rosie loves to paint, and her parents get a head scarf designed for her based on one of her pieces! Rosie then proceeds to send paint to kids near and far, so they can design headscarves for themselves.

I have to be completely honest, my mom read this book before I did. She saw it sitting on the counter and dived right in. After reading, she had tears in her eyes and we had a discussion about the strength of kids (and parents) in this world. When I read this book, I also started to tear up and felt a surge of admiration for this family.

The writing style is fabulous! The rhyming gives the text a great flow, without feeling too juvenile. The sentence structure is a mixture of simple and complex, so that it can appeal to a wide range of readers. The illustrations are fun, especially with the color theme used. The pictures enhance reading comprehension and gives a visual life to the story.

There are a few clear themes in this picture book- pride, strength and making a difference. The themes are clear enough for even younger readers to identify, which will make for great discussions.

As always, my teacher heart gets super happy when author’s include bonus features in their books. This text includes a kid-friendly glossary and a teacher’s guide. The guide has a self portrait idea and discussion questions, with an accommodation for older students (which I LOVE).

This picture book would work well for students in grades P-4 to help discuss character education topics and alopecia.

To purchase the book click here.

*100% of the proceeds of this book go to supporting the Coming Up Rosie’s mission to restore confidence, happiness and pride to anyone struggling with low self-esteem during their medical journey, especially bald children.*

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

eNinja Book Review

One of my favorite aspects about being an English teacher is using books to teach my students life lessons. I believe that picture books can teach kids at all ages how to handle life situations, even high school students. I’ve been teaching virtually with EdOptions Academy by Edmentum for three years, and now more than ever, students need guidance in making the transition to online learning.

eNinja, written by Mary Nhin and illustrated by Jelena Stupar, is a relatable picture book that shows readers how to be successful with online learning.

It’s no secret I’m a HUGE Mary Nhin fan (How to Win the World Cup in Your Pajamas Book Review, Arial the Youtube Book Review, Arial the Chef Book Review, and Arial the Secret Santa Book Review) and her Ninja series is just as fabulous as her other works.

eNinja follows Ninja on the journey of transitioning to online learning. This can be a very big change for students, and Ninja isn’t so sure about this way of learning. With the help of a friend, Ninja learns the secret to this transition: the 3 P’s (polite, positive and prepared). I LOVE that readers have an easy way to remember how to handle online learning.

Prepared. Being prepared means more than just showing up to class in an online environment. As the text mentions, students should charge their devices, have a quiet spot in the house to work, and all of the necessary supplies within arms reach. Staying organized is really the key. Even as a virtual teacher, I take these steps to make sure I am ready to go for all of classes.

Polite. For me, this one is a biggie. Since I use Zoom constantly for student interaction, it’s important to follow the advice given in this part of the book. Some of the suggestions include: don’t be on another device, have loud background noises, and wait for the teacher to listen to questions or raise my hand. There is a fantastic illustration to show students online etiquette, which I would suggest putting next to a student’s learning area as a reminder.

Positive. Is online learning a big change? Yes. Can be hard and scary? Absolutely. The fact that Ninja expresses these feelings allows readers to connect with the character, because chances are readers feel the same way. I LOVE that Nhin doesn’t just have Ninja talk about his feelings, but also explains ways to help alleviate them. Students should use checklists and schedules to keep them on track. The book literally ends on a positive note :).

But, wait! As always with a Mary Nhin book, she thinks of some extras. At the end of eNinja, readers are given advanced learning tips (which are AMAZING ones to use) a virtual meeting success cheat sheet that includes being prepared, polite and positive.

Even though this is a picture book, I would recommend it for students in grades K-12. It is a quick read that offers solutions to some problems that students can face making the transition to an online classroom.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.