Fiona: Forever? Book Review

Once in a while a book comes into my life that will forever stay with me. Whether it’s a character, a gripping plot, some works just tend to stay with you as a reader.

Fiona: Forever?, by Erinn Uher, is a remarkable story about a little girl in foster care who is looking for her forever home.

One of my favorite things about working with self published authors is the freedom they have to create a book that includes everything they want. The structure of this book is a fiction with some nonfiction elements thrown in. There are bolded words throughout the text (vocabulary words) that students can look up in the glossary at the back of the book. The vocabulary words were related to foster care (such as case worker, bonding) to help teach readers important aspects about new information. Personally, I really liked this because I even learned a few new words.

And, as always, I love when a book can be more than a book. This text includes Think About It questions after each chapter to help the reader think, reflect, and interact with the text. These are not just reading comprehension question, but are higher order thinking based. There are also some areas for readers to draw characters, or other aspects of the story, which is also fabulous.

Fiona, our main character, isĀ  an adorable little girl with red curly hair and glasses. She has been to eight foster homes, but dreams of her forever family. Her mole pet, Melvin, is her best friend and the only constant in her life. As with any child in the system, she has issues letting people in and trusting them. She is very independent.

The Oliver’s are a caring and loving family. Lorraine, Pete and their teenage son Clyde, welcome Fiona into their home with open arms. Pete helps Fiona with her homework, and he shows a tremendous amount of patience, Lorraine takes Fiona shopping and respects Fiona’s decisions, and Clyde interacts with Fiona like a big brother by teaching her to play basketball.

We see Fiona blossom into a happy little girl because of the Oliver family. They make her feel special on her birthday, are by her side when she breaks her wrist, and provide her with a strong support system.

However, my absolute favorite character is Miss Alice. Fiona stayed with Miss Alice temporarily. This older woman is truly amazing. When Fiona was with her, Miss Alice had had 48 foster children. Talk about a woman with a huge heart. One night, Miss Alice was telling Fiona about the first little boy she fostered, and how much of a challenge he was.

“He was just so used to bein’ hurt and neglected by the grown-ups in his life. He needed to learn to trust all over again. Needed to know for sure I was gonna be here for him no matter what, even on the most ugly days.”

Personally, I think this is the most powerful quote in the entire text. It sums up beautifully the struggles children in foster care face, and why it is so hard for them to trust others. It also shows us how important foster parents truly are in the lives of children. There are many, many emotions that are involved, and it takes special individuals to help children work through these emotions.

Without giving away the ending, I will tell you that I did cry when reading this book. I actually Facebook messaged the author as soon as I finished. I had a hard time typing because of the tears in my eyes. For those of us with children or who work with children, this book will grab your heart.

While I was reading, I kept visualizing a third or fourth grade class reading this as a class novel, and using the activities inside like a reader’s notebook. It can also be used at home and in a homeschool environment.

To purchase this book click here: https://www.amazon.com/Fiona-Forever-Erinn-Uher-ebook/dp/B07XHN4K8M

Top 3 Resources for Dyslexia

The internet is an amazing place. We can instantly find information with just a few taps on a keyboard. However, with this simplicity comes an overwhelming amount of information, which can be hard to sift through. The majority of my pins are from these three websites.

Below are some of my personal favorite resources for dyslexia. I often use Pinterest to save specific topics I want to use in the future.

  1. Understood.org. Holy moly! This website is ah-mazing!! They are all about providing resources and information to families of students with learning and attention issues. Parents can chat with experts on specific topics (make sure you RSVP), join discussions, use personalized tools, and check out a tonnnn of resources. One of my favorite current resource is “8 Reasons Kids Might Read Slowly”.
  2. LearningAlly.org. I recently discovered this website after a parent mentioned it during a tutoring session. Learning Ally provides audio books for students with dyslexia and learning disabilities (for a fee). One of my favorite aspects of this site is the app that they have to make life easier for readers. Students can simply pop on headphones and enjoy a book without struggling to decode.
  3. The Literacy Nest. I shared my love for The Literacy Nest Blog last week (check it out here). For parents that homeschool, teachers, and tutors, this website provides incredible resources. There is a ton of information on dyslexia, tips for parents, spelling, etc. There is information on Orton-Gillingham (OG) and on the multi-sensory approach to reading. Emily Gibbons (the creator of The Literacy Nest) also has a Teachers Pay Teachers store where educators and parents can purchase worksheets and activities to help students. There is also a newsletter that viewers can subscribe to in order to stay up to date.

Each site offers unique information/resources for families and educators about working with dyslexic students.

How to Save Money on Books

I go through books like water. It’s a good problem to have at times, but it can be a very expensive habit.

When I got my iPad back in 2012, I started reading ebooks through iBooks. Then I made the transition to a Kindle and have continued my ebook ways. Don’t get me wrong, I still love physical books and going to bookstores, but sometimes I don’t have the patience to wait to go to a store.

Over the years I’ve come up with ways not to pay full price for books, expect for ones that are must haves.

1. School Libraries. One of the benefits of being a teacher is working in a building with a library. I’ve always worked with media specialists in the buildings I’ve worked in, so I tend to spend a lot of time surrounded by books. This was not only convenient but kept me up to date on the latest YA materials.

2. Public libraries. I volunteer once a month at my local library, so it helps me keep to a library routine (which can be hard when you’re working and mommying). I’m also friends with the children’s librarian and she keeps me in the loop on new releases. Plus, if a book I want is in another library in the network, she can borrow the book from the other library. Libraries have now also started loaning ebooks. I have to admit that I have yet to try this feature. AND libraries will often have book sales or even free books to make way for new ones. I happened to pick up two Dear America’s the last time I was at the library for free.

3. Thrift stores. My sister is very into thrifting and it’s amazing what you treasures you can find. Books usually start at around $1.00 depending on the book. You can walk out with a bag of books for the price of a new hardcover.

4. Garage sales. Similar to thrifting, garage sale hopping is also a great way to find cheap books. They may be a little bit older if it’s a family cleaning out their teenager’s bookshelves, but there are generally some classics you can find.

5. Kindle Unlimited. This has been a lifesaver for me, especially when doing book reviews. For $10 a month I have access to thousands of texts and they are always adding new books. Not gonna lie, I absolutely love that I can read Harry Potter whenever I want with my subscription. I’ve also used KU during tutoring sessions a few times, so it has definitely paid off for me.

Family Dinner Book Review

My favorite emails are from Goodreads when they tell me I’m a giveaway winner. I just so happened to get one of those glorious emails earlier this week. The last book review I did for a Goodreads giveaway win was with TheĀ Fever King.

Family Dinner, by Cory Q Tan, is a picture book about a dad who will do whatever it takes to bring home carrots to his family for dinner.

When the book first started, I thought it was realistic fiction. There’s a husband and wife and the wife is nagging the husband to go out and by carrots for dinner. She wants to make potato carrot soup, but they have no carrots. I loved the dialogue in the beginning because it really does capture the realities of being married (with nagging).

As we all know, sometimes things don’t turn out the way we expect/hope. We all have those days when things go from bad to worse, which is exactly what the dad deals with. His go-to grocery store is closed, the next one is out of carrots, then he ventures into the country.

This is where I got surprised as a reader. All of a sudden the story took a fantasy turn. There are big talking worms, a wolf with a toothache, a giant fish and more. At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about this shift, but as the story continued I could see that it was effective.

The dad made it a point to help every animal/insect he came into contact with. Even though the wolf could have eaten him, the dad still helped the wolf pull out his tooth. This shows readers the importance of kindness and helping others.

However, my favorite part was at the end of the story. The dad was gone an awfully long time trying to get the carrots for his family, and it was clear the family was concerned when the dad finally got home. The mom didn’t care about the carrots, but instead told readers all the family needs is the dad.

This was a really cute little story that would work for early elementary students.

We Need to Talk…About Dyslexia

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month.

When I first started teaching, I’m not even sure I knew what dyslexia was. I took all the required college courses to teach secondary English, I did all of my practicum and student teaching, but dyslexia was never discussed.

I heard of Orton-Gillingham during my second or third year of teaching because one of the teachers in my building used it with her resource students. She knew I was going for my Reading Specialist certification and mentioned that I should take her place when she retires. At the time, I figured I’d be totally prepared to teach those kids because I would be a specialist.

Well, I was definitely wrong.

I live in NJ and have taught in public and charter schools in the state. We have amazing schools.

I have never had professional development through a school that included dyslexia.

I have never worked with a special education teacher to address dyslexic students in my gen. ed classroom.

I have a masters degree in Curriculum/Reading and a NJ and MI Reading Specialist certification, but I was never taught how to help students with dyslexia.

This is a problem.

For the last year and a half I have dived into the world of dyslexia. I started my Orton-Gillingham training online through Orton Gillingham Online Academy, which has been amazing. I can work at my own pace, ask questions in the Facebook group, and have access to incredible materials.

Over the summer I attended webinars through Learning Ally that focused on supporting dyslexic students in the classroom.

As an educator, I’m being open minded. I’m realizing that even at the middle school level we need to be addressing dyslexia in our schools. We need to realize that phonics and learning to read don’t stop in elementary school. We need to stop being afraid to say ‘dyslexia’. We need to train our teachers on what dyslexia looks like and how to help our dyslexic students.

But how do we do that?

By bringing awareness. Dyslexia is not just letters getting jumbled up when a person is reading. It is so, so much more. We need to talk about it. We need educate our teachers about it. We need to stop being afraid of it.

 

PB & J Book Review

Six months ago when I decided to dive back into blogging, I was fortunate to connect with some amazing authors. Not only did I review their books, two of them even did virtual visits with me for my EdOptions Academy kids. We continue to follow and support one another on social media, and have developed a really awesome friendship. Christine Reynebau was one of my first author friends, and she continues to be an absolute inspiration. I reviewed her picture book Celebrate back in June (click here to see my review for Celebrate), and I’m super excited to share another one of her works.

PB& J, by Christine Reynebau, is a sweet story about perseverance and support.

The main character is an adorable little girl who wants to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but she can’t open the jelly jar. She tries a few ways to open the jar on her own, but she is unsuccessful. She decides to do what all girls do when the going gets tough… she asks her parents for help.

Both of her parents gently say they will not open the jar because they believe that she can open the jar on her own. At first I was surprised when her dad told her this, because dad’s usually do anything to help their daughters. But the fact that the dad encourages her to keep trying is heartwarming. I love that by not helping his daughter open the jar her dad is teaching her an important life lesson of perseverance. And when her mom also tells her daughter to keep trying it reiterates the life lesson.

The little girl spends the rest of the picture book trying creative ways to open the jar. I love that she ties the jar to the back of her bike and when that doesn’t work pitches the jar to her brother Mike. She really does try anything she can think of to get the lid off.

Spoiler alert: After all of her creative attempts, the little girl is successful by opening the jar with one hand. She is so incredibly proud of herself, as she should be, and celebrates with encouraging words from her parents and a PB & J sandwich.

This adorable picture book would be great with little ones in preschool through second grade.

To purchase the book click here.

Using Social Media to Find New Books

I don’t about you, but every once and a while I go through a reading slump. It’s like when you can’t decide what movie to watch, but instead you can’t pick a book to read. When I have moments like this, I look to social media for some inspiration.

Facebook groups– These are amazing! Not only do participants post books they’re reading, they also ask for suggestions and often engage in a quick book discussions. One of my favorite parts of being a member of these groups is how honest people are. It also keeps me up to date on the new releases are current best sellers.

Following authors on Instagram– Personally, this is one of my favorite things to do in general. Authors are incredible people and love to share their love of reading. They will often post stories about what they’re currently reading, or share information about an author friend’s new book.

Friends on Goodreads- As a true bookworm, I love Goodreads. It’s such a great way to see what your friends are reading, how they rated books, and to see what authors are doing. I’ve been a member of Goodreads for years now and I have to tell you my absolute favorite part about it…THE GIVEAWAYS!! They are free to enter and you can add books to your To Read list. It’s kind of amazing.

Finding pins on Pinterest– Pinterest is the most addicting thing ever. The amount of boards I have with different recipes, teaching activities, and future office decor is insane. Some people create really great reading lists for each season, holiday or new releases. I love that you can get super specific with book lists, like apple picking for preschoolers, so I can find exactly what I’m looking for.