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Book Review: Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Over the course of my adult years, I’ve dipped in and out of a few book clubs. One of the reasons I love participating in book clubs is that it inevitably inspires me to read books I might not otherwise select myself. Such is the case with Renee Watson’s Piecing Me Together. I typically enjoy reading young adult books, but I’m not sure I would have stumbled upon this title without the encouragement of my book club.

Intended Audience of Piecing Me Together

Piecing Me Together is a young adult book, which is typically intended for children 12-18 years old. However, compared to other young adult books I’ve read, I think a younger reader with high ability and maturity could read this book and enjoy it. I would also encourage adults of teenagers to pick up this book. I found I could really relate to the main character’s coming-of-age struggles, so it is a great reminder for me as a parent of the challenges of these often difficult years.

Summary of Piecing Me Together

This book follows a year in the life of high school sophomore Jade, an African American girl attending an elite private high school far from her home in a neighborhood plagued by poverty. The reader follows along as Jade navigates these two different worlds, including her struggle to be seen as a person with talent and skills, not just as a student in need of support. Two focal points of the book include her relationship with her assigned adult mentor, as well as her passion for art through collage and photography.

What to Know Before You Read Piecing Me Together

Tweens and teens who read this book will likely have questions or concerns about difficult topics the book touches on, like police brutality and the realities of poverty. Jade and her friends rally around a local girl who is beaten by a police officer, though they do not know her personally and there is very little description of the assault itself. Jade and her mom struggle to make ends meet, and this includes Jade facing moments of hunger that I think many teens more accustomed to opening a fridge or a pantry full of food will find eye opening. There is some adult language, though it is not excessive.

Why You Should Read Piecing Me Together

There are many on-ramps in this book that give the reader a sense of connection with Jade. Even though her circumstances are drastically different from my own (and I suspect many readers of the book), she is the type of character many people can identify with. From her struggles with self image, to friendship dynamics, to her interest in art and travel, to her love of learning a foreign language, she has so many dimensions. It was easy to fall in love with her and care deeply for her, and from there, the rest of the book just falls into place.

Also, for adults who find themselves in a mentor capacity with young people of any age (teachers, “big brothers or sisters,” sports coaches, etc.), this could be a very powerful read. By the end of the book, Jade finds her voice in addressing some of the troubling aspects of her mentor-mentee relationship and the support group she’s a part of. As adults, the feedback she shares is worth exploring. 

After You Read Piecing Me Together

Some of the women in my book club worked on collage art during our discussion, which I thought was such a great idea. Perhaps you and your child could do a group project, or make each other a piece of art like Jade. Or go on a photo walk in your community and find beauty in the unexpected, as Jade does. Attend a local art show, or seek out information about causes like Black Lives Matter.

There are also several mentions of real people and artists in this book that are fun to search out online and explore in more depth. Our book club looked at some of the famous collage art that Jade discovers through a trip to a local bookstore, and I researched some of the poetry brought up during her planning of an open mic night.

If You Like Piecing Me Together, Read These Books Next:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (our review of The Hate U Give)

What Momma Left Me, This Side of Home, Some Places More Than Others, Watch Us Rise (other titles by Renee Watson)

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Want to read other reviews of books we recommend? We have a page full of book recommendations broken down by age range.

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Fact vs. Fiction: Learning What’s Real and What’s Not Through Reading

I was a journalism major, graduating in 2002. Thousands of miles away, at the exact moment I was practicing how to craft compelling, accurate newspaper headlines and write engaging magazine articles, Mark Zuckerberg was inventing Facebook in his dorm room at Harvard and changing how we get our news forever. I often wonder how drastically different my journalism education would be if I was a student now and not pre-social media.

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Why You Need Books to Like Books

If our readers take anything away from this website, we hope it’s the importance of access to books. We’ve written about it from various angles over the past year, like this post about placing books around your home, or this post about letting children choose their own books. Let’s approach book access from a viewpoint that might make some uncomfortable: privilege.

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Family Favorite Reads from 2018-2019

The 2018-2019 school year is in officially in the books for our part of the country and nearing the end for most everyone else. As classroom teachers helped kids collect memories for yearbooks and best of lists, we wondered what books members of our families will remember most. And be sure you’re following us on social media this summer: we’ve taken the #bookaday challenge and we’re sharing book recommendations each and every day! (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)

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Tips for Making Spelling Practice Easier

It’s always around late April and May when our after school homework routine starts getting more than a little unruly. Motivation is lacking and warmer weather outside beckons. Practicing spelling week after week is high on the list of boring, routine tasks for my kids… dare I say most kids?

We can debate the merits of assigning weekly spelling lists, but the reality is it is still prevalent as a common assignment. (We don’t mean to be dismissive of spelling altogether; there are studies that suggest that as students’ spelling improves, so does their reading and writing skills.)

Keep these three words in mind as you help your child work through spelling: manageable, personal, and fun.

Practicing spelling shouldn’t take hours and it certainly need not look like a Pinterest project. I did a quick search and was astonished at the complexity of some spelling activities floating around out there on the internet. Yikes. For my family, half the battle is finding the time, so don’t get bogged down by anything complicated.

Here are some simple ideas to take the drudgery out of spelling practice.  

Make Spelling Manageable

Focus on the words they struggle with. There will likely be words on the weekly list that they are already spelling confidently. Don’t feel obligated to keep drilling your child on those words!

Work on a few words each day instead of all the words the night before. This is especially important if your child struggles with focus and attention span (what kid doesn’t struggle with that after a long day at school?) Try making it a small part of your daily routine. A few examples:

  • Every morning at breakfast, go over 5 words while you slurp cereal or wait for the toast to pop up.
  • Write the tricky words on the bathroom mirror so children see them while brushing their teeth.
  • Keep a copy of the list in your car, and go over words while you wait in the drive thru, sit through siblings’ sports practices, or as you run errands.

Make Spelling Personal

Customize your study habits around their preferences. For example, my first grader hates to write, so we usually practice his spelling words out loud. My fourth grader struggles to spell his longer words out loud, so he always writes them out.

Allow open book practice. To be a great speller, repetition is the most important component. Let your child copy the words straight off the list, especially at first when they’re seeing them for the first time.

If giving your child a bunch of practice tests isn’t working well or you just need to mix up the routine, let your child quiz you. Have them grade you. They won’t even realize they’re “studying” the words by doing so.

Make Spelling Fun

Try plugging the weekly list into a crossword or word search puzzle generator (there are lots of free options online). Older children can probably do this themselves!

Test out some spelling apps. Your child’s teacher may already be using tools like this. Ask if your child can sign in from home for extra practice.

Use manipulatives, like letter blocks, or allow your child to type the words on a keyboard.

If they’re struggling with a particular word or letter pattern, teach them little tricks to master it, like silly songs or rhymes.

How do you practice spelling words with your child? Leave us a comment and let us know what works well in your house!

 

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Bedtime Reading: Common Struggles and Simple Solutions

We love getting feedback and questions from you, our readers. One of the hottest topics in our inbox and on our social media channels is about bedtime reading routines. Not surprising, as it’s one of those staples from childhood that has stood the test of time, from generation to generation. I imagine (perhaps naively) families gathered around candlelight reading aloud together from treasured books centuries ago, and I know many parents still make reading together at night before bed a daily priority, even in the era of screens.

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Advice for Handling Disappointing Test Results

My Child Didn’t Pass the State-Mandated 3rd Grade Reading Test. Now What?

Do you live in a state with a mandatory 3rd grade reading test (in Indiana, it’s called the IREAD-3)? More and more states are requiring a test to address reading proficiency in 3rd grade. Here is a map of the states and their stance on these tests from The National Conference on State LegislatorsWhile research tells us there are mixed reviews on the benefits of these reading tests, many states now require it. It began with the idea that by 3rd grade, students need to “read to learn” and have moved past “learning to read.”

Features of a typical mandatory 3rd grade reading test: Read More

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Book Review: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

My 9-year-old son recently asked me, “what’s the name of the genre of books that are about people who have had difficult lives?” He had just finished the book “Wish,” by Barbara O’Connor and was doing some self-reflection as far as what to read next. The writer nerd in me loved that he was making the connection between books like “Wish,” “Wonder,” etc., with some of the interesting biographies he’s read (like the Who Was series and the True Tales of Childhood series). The next book I’m going to suggest he read? “Fish in a Tree” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. I don’t think there is a named genre as my son described it, but this book certainly fits his interest in this type of main character.

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Parents as Reading Role Models: Eliminating Distractions and Building Stamina

This is the third and final installment of our series Parents as Reading Role Models (Part 1 and Part 2, if you are catching up). Let’s talk openly and honestly about all of the distractions in our lives and how they often prevent us from modeling good reading behaviors for our kids. Whether you’re the parent or caregiver of a newborn or a teenager, it’s so easy to become distracted by dings, vibrations, and alerts. We are very guilty of this ourselves. Flip on CNN and you’ll see 4 scrolling bars at the bottom of the screen, as if our bodies were built to absorb a constant stream of stimuli. Newsflash? They’re not.

Tips For Building Reading Stamina and Eliminating Distractions

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Conquer Reading Log Stress

My ideal family evening is a winter night, all of us snuggled on the couch with a good book. There’s a fire going and no one is in a hurry. Our bellies are full, the dishes are put away, lunches are made. When bedtime approaches, teeth are brushed, hugs and kisses are exchanged, and sleep comes quickly.

Our current reality looks nothing like that. Winter is the busiest time of the year for my family. Both of my kids are playing a sport (basketball) and both have a time-consuming hobby (robotics and horseback riding). Many evenings feel more like a carefully orchestrated circus than a cozy evening of calm. I take solace knowing that the rest of our year isn’t this busy, but that doesn’t help with the stress of the current moment. So when the topic of reading logs comes up, my first thought is, “ain’t nobody got time for that!” Am I right?

As a teacher AND a mom, I urge you to trust your parenting instincts and opt for quality over quantity.

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