My Take Your Take Banner
My Take Your Take Banner

MTYT: Long Way Down

This month’s My Take/Your Take discussions focus on the 2018 American Library Association (ALA) award winners. Mary Fahrenbruck and Tracy Smiles continue with a discussion of the multi-awarding winning novel, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. The novel, written in free verse poetry won the Newbery Honor Book Award, the Printz Honor Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Honor Award and numerous other awards from organizations other than ALA.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds Continue reading

My Take Your Take Banner

MTYT: Crown

Continuing our look at award winning-books, this week Mary Fahrenbruck and Tracy Smiles share their take on Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, awarded a John Newbery Honor, a Caldecott honor and Corretta Scott-King Honor in 2018. The story by Derrick Barnes and illustrations by Gordon C. James presents readers with, as the Huffington Post said when naming it among 2017’s best picturebooks, “a celebration of self-esteem and a thoughtful nod to the importance of stepping into the world with a touch of swagger.”

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut Continue reading

My Take Your Take Banner

MTYT: All Around Us

This month’s My Take/Your Take discussions focus on the 2018 American Library Association (ALA) award winners. Mary Fahrenbruck and Tracy Smiles begin with a discussion of All Around Us, winner of the 2018 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book. The story by Xelena Gonzalez and illustrations by Adriana M. Garcia pair perfectly to give readers a sensual literary experience.

All Around Us Continue reading

Hello, Dear Ferdinand! Of Bulls, Flowers and a Banned Book

By Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University, Monmouth, OR

September is the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom’s “Banned Books” month, when we celebrate books that at one time or another have been challenged and/or censored. These books are often removed from the shelves of school and public libraries because an individual or organization found them to be politically, morally or religiously offensive and problematic. This year, Banned Book Week runs from September 24-30, which coincides with a special exhibit at Worlds of Words–Hello, Dear Enemy!
Ferdinand Continue reading

Catastrophe or Opportunity?: Rethinking and Resisting Deficit Perspectives on the Language and Culture of Children Living in Poverty

By Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University
(This originally appeared in the Oregon Reading Association’s quarterly newsletter, The ORAcle—Winter 2015).


One cannot expect positive results from an educational or political action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people. Such a program constitutes cultural invasion, good intentions notwithstanding.
Paulo Freire

A Troubling Discourse

Just the other day I overheard an administrator addressing a group of preservice teachers. He explained, “Children living in poverty have little to no vocabulary.” While this well-meaning individual was trying to describe some of the very real challenges these future teachers could face teaching in culturally, economically, and linguistically diverse contexts, I was troubled by this discourse Continue reading

We Are Not Alone: Teachers, Parents, & Educational Communities Push Back on Testing

By Marie LeJeune and Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University



We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Over the past three weeks our focus on high stakes testing (SBAC and PARCC) has examined our personal and professional tensions in our roles as both parents and teacher educators. It is not an exaggeration to say we are deeply concerned over these movements in education and their impacts on children, teachers, and schools. So concerned that we have lost sleep, written letters to administrators, met with colleagues to brainstorm and strategize solutions, Continue reading

To Test or Not to Test, This is Not the Question

By Marie LeJeune & Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

SquarepegAssessment literacy- (Gallagher & Turley): [teachers’] deep understanding of why they assess, when they assess, and how they assess in ways that positively impact student learning. In addition, successful teacher assessors view assessment through an inquiry lens, using varying assessments to learn from and with their students in order to adjust classroom practices accordingly. Together these two qualities—a deep knowledge of assessment and an inquiry approach to assessment — create a particular stance toward assessment. (NCTE, 2013).

For the month of March we have presented reasons for pushing back against high stakes testing, and offered examples of how citizens comprised of teachers, parents, and community organizers are, through grassroots movements, resisting these punitive, and often harmful assessment practices. Continue reading

Field Tested: Educators Speak Back to High Stakes Testing

By Marie LeJeune and Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

Testing1A boy in Miss Malarkey’s class makes the following observation,

Miss Malarkey is a good teacher. Usually she’s really nice. But a couple of weeks ago she started acting a little weird. She started talking about THE TEST: The Instructional Performance Through Understanding test. I think Miss Malarkey said it was the “I.P.T.U.” test (Finchler, J, 2003).

Last week we talked about the personal toll testing has taken on our children Continue reading