Tag Archives: summer

Summer Reading 2021

Hooray for summer! Sure, we usually say something along those lines this time of year, but this year? ONCE MORE WITH FEELING. And with that, we turn to our Tarrant correspondents for a peek into the reading bags, shelves, carts and– *squints* — trees, that keep our folks out of trouble.* 

We’re off reading and resting for the summer, on our annual publishing hiatus. We’ll rejoin all you fine folks come autumn.

Without further ado…


*fires off airhorns*

*launches coffee pot into the air*


Jeanie Phillips

I cannot wait to dig into summer reading, and paradoxically, I wish I had waited on two books because I’d love to read them again for the very first time!

Angeline Boulley’s The Firekeeper’s Daughter is a mystery set in an Ojibwe community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I read it quickly for the plot and then reread it to soak up the indigenous ways of knowing and being. It was definitely my very favorite YA book of the year…

Until I devoured A Sitting in St. James by Rita Williams-Garcia, which is now tied for first! Williams-Garcia tells the story of a white family and the people they enslave with such nuance and skill. It was the perfect companion book to Scott’s recommendation How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America.

Speaking of re-reading, I’ve got plans for that as well! 

Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights delighted me indeed, and I plan to read a delight a day this summer. (Here is a sample delight to whet your appetite.)

And I’m going to re-read an old favorite in anticipation of the sequel that is scheduled to arrive this fall.

I adored Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe when I first read it, and I can hardly wait to read Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World.

summer reading 2021


And then there is the stack of books I am taking with me to the beach to be read in the sunshine and salt air.

Happy summer and happy reading to all of you!



Life LeGeros

Books come to us in so many different ways. Sometimes we find them the old fashion way: perusing library shelves.

Right now I’m reading The Kingdom of Copper, which is the second book in a series. I found the first one randomly, without ever hearing about the book or the author, and it is one of my absolute favorites. The author, S.A. Chakraborty, is an expert in medieval Islam and she is such a good writer that I can’t put it down — it is one of the rare books where I put all my others aside until I’m finished. I might just have to listen to the Hidden Djinn podcast to stay steeped in djinn lore.

A new way that I’ve been finding books in the last few years is when a friend or colleague is published. Alex Shevrin Venet’s Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education falls in that category. I’ve learned so much from Alex over the years, and followed (from afar) her writing process. To now have her book in my hand, and to see the education world going gaga over her genius, is so exciting. The parts that I’ve read so far are as profound and practical as I’d expect from somebody with Alex’s brilliance, compassion, and experience.

Then there are those books that you just need. Like when you need to talk to your tween daughter about something complicated or embarrassing.

That’s how I found and ordered (to my local independent bookstore, of course) Fourteen Talks by Age Fourteen by Michelle Icard. She seems to have a good handle on adolescent psychology so I’ll be leaning on this one heavily for the next few years.

More and more often I have the experience of being introduced to books (and music and TV shows) that my daughters bring home. Interestingly, both of my daughters recently brought home books from the library that center trans characters.

Ayla, 9 years old, says I simply must read Zenobia July

And Zoe, 11, has invited me to read with her Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story, which is a memoir by Jacob Tobia (who apparently played a character on one of our family fave shows, She-Ra).

Finally, there’s always the To Be Read pile.

I look forward to continuing my lifelong project of unlearning/relearning history via Clint Smith’s How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America. Along with many of the other books already in that pile (or recently added due to my fine colleagues!)

Here’s hoping that some good books make their way to you and that you have as much time to read this summer as you’d like. You deserve it!

Photo of a stack of books




Susan Hennessey

Shifting into summer mode sometimes is nuanced. Even when I’m no longer in scheduled meetings or following a strict timeline, I still find myself stuck in a schedule mindset.

A kick in the pants for me to shift modes is my summer reading stack.

This summer I am eager to start a new book, revisit two old favorites, and dig deep into something I only skimmed the surface of.

And just like every Zoom meeting I’ve engaged with over this past year, my cat Tink needs to make her presence known. She’ll be right there with me while I dig in.

summer reading 2021
Editorial note: there is, in fact, a cat in this picture.


We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra tops my list because who doesn’t want to dive head first into a first-love love story revealed through letters exchanged, and one that alludes to Walt Whitman’s writing throughout.

Next, I plan to revisit two old favorites: one for a laugh at the absurdity of things —  When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris — and one that fills me with hope, as I laugh: Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott.

And finally on the list, a book I purchased this year and skimmed for insights, but didn’t give it the time it deserved: Myron Dueck’s Giving Students a Say: Smatter Assessment Practices to Empower and Engage.


Emily Hoyler

Last summer I bought a camping hammock, the kind that comes with its own straps and fastens anywhere fitting. It’s an essential summer reading accessory for me.

And being slung between two trees is an especially apt setting for my some of my summer reading selections.

First I’ll be diving into Suzanne Simard’s Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. This is doubly exciting, because Simard was the inspiration for one of the characters in a previous, glorious summer read, The Overstory by Richard Powers. My arboreal daydreams will continue with Peter Wohlleben’s The Heartbeat of Trees: Embracing Our Ancient Bond with Forests and Nature. But I won’t spend the whole summer in the trees.

(Ok, actually, I might.)


I can’t wait to dive into adrienne maree brown’s Holding Change: The Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation. I’ve shared before my love of brown’s Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, so I’m excited for this more practical facilitation guide.

I’ve been lovingly admiring Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019,edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, perched on my nightstand for months, and it’s collection of essays will lend themselves nicely to short bursts of reading.

And of course there will need to be some escape fiction. Of course.

While much of that will be determined impulsively and intuitively, I can not wait to get my hands on Chris Bohjalian’s Hour of the Witch.The most disappointing part about this choice is that it will probably be devoured in a day. Good thing that there are so many other treasures waiting to be discovered!


Scott Thompson

For those who know me… I’m a list person. I need them to keep me focused and on task but I get stressed when they get too long. The book list follows a different set of rules.  I’d say a book a day gets added to the “you need to read this” list. So when summer rolls around the list gets some special attention. When things slow down a bit, here are my first two reads for the summer.

  • How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with The History of Slavery In America by Clint Smith.
  • The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson


Rachel Mark

I love reading in the summertime. For one, reading during the day always feels like such a luxury. Whether I’m in the backyard, in a beach chair, or just reading in bed at 8 am, it feels like a delicious treat.

These are the books that I hope to devour this summer.

Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff is one of our MGI reads for this June. I am already into this middle grade novel, and I know it’s so good. The main character, Bug has experienced an important loss and she’s grieving and searching for her identity in a small town in Vermont. It’s a great story that involves some ghosts, gender identity, and coming of age. I highly recommend it to teachers!

Another book on my list is You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience edited by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown. This book is an anthology of essays by black writers discussing topics on shame and healing. I have deep respect for these two women and know that this book will shape my heart and my head.

My book group has chosen to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I don’t know too much about this except it’s the fictional story of an old Hollywood icon – probably loosely based on Elizabeth Taylor. I was eager to read it since I loved the author’s book Daisy Jones & the Six.

The final book on my summer shortlist is The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. I chose this book as my “candy” reading. It looks like a page-turner mystery about a woman whose husband goes missing. She has to discover his hidden past and protect his daughter. While reading this book is not going to raise my IQ, I can’t resist; I can just get lost in the story and let time fly by. Isn’t that what summer reading is about?!




Audrey Homan

Hoo. This particular summer reading list’s a little bittersweet. After 11 years at the Tarrant Institute, in July I’ll be leaving to join the crew at the UVM Center on Disability and Community Inclusion (CDCI). I could not be more excited about the chance to work with the team there. Could not.

At the same time, I am intensely grateful for the chance to have worked with the kind and generous people both at the Tarrant Institute and in every classroom generous enough to invite me in for a chat. I have learned so much from all of you.

So what’s in the reading to-go bag? 

I Didn’t Choose The Late-Night DJ Life…

It continues to choose me, even while recording from home. 

I’m on a deep dive into the history of radio in the United States. After having worked through Lonesome Cowgirls & Honky Tonk Angels: The Women of Barn Dance Radio, I’m on to Voice Over: The Making of Black Radio. I’m also reading Rebel Radio: The Story of El Salvador’s Radio Venceremos, although I am aware that El Salvador is not in the United States.

Oh! And in case that wasn’t enough, I’ve finally gotten hold of the final book in Joyce Krieg’s Sacramento-set radio mystery series, Riding Gain.

It’s Never the Sharks’ Year, Dude

At the point of this writing it’s 108 days until October 12, 2021, also known as the start of the NHL 2021-2022 season. A little light hockey reading should tide me over. 

First up, Zamboni Rodeo: Chasing Hockey Dreams from Austin to Albuquerque, telling the story of one season in the late great career of the Texas-based WPHL’s Ice Bats (real team; not making that up). On deck (which is not a hockey term) is Shorthanded: The Untold Story of the Seals, Hockey’s Most Colorful Team. Who knew that Oakland and Cleveland spent 1976 fighting over an NHL team? Now just look at them (hockey-wise). Tsk tsk. 

Plus! Crossing the Line: The Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original, the rip-roaring 1970s autobiography of Boston Bruins tough guy Derek Sanderson and his hair. Cannot wait.  

And with that, my young onions, your editor is out. Thank you very much for reading.

Audrey Homan, 2014 edition.
2014 summer reading flashback.



Happy reading, everyone! We wish you a restful and rejuvenating summer break.



*Don’t quote us on that come September.

What can we learn from summer unschooling?

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to think and talk about innovative school change.

It’s difficult to see the start of this school year with a heart that’s anything but desperately worried for students, for teachers and for families. We want this school year to be fruitful in terms of learning, but we’re also shocked and dismayed by the physical danger school communities face in re-opening.

It’s difficult to think and talk about innovative school change, but at the same time, right now it’s pretty hard not to think about school.


When schools let out for the summer, it was a relief.

We saw continued creativity from schools around Vermont in celebrating their graduates. We saw educators around the state have a chance to breathe and cry and relax.

Summer’s a weird time for students. In theory, school’s over, so you can do your own thing. But in reality, school’s over, and that can have a huge impact on the structure and support school brings. Freedom only goes so far when you’re under 18.

But sometimes it goes just far enough.

This summer we saw students making their own way through, and were impressed by their tenacity, flexibility and creativity. We saw students pursue learning in ways that made us wonder: what could we learn from students who pursued their own learning outside of school this summer?

Turns out: quite a bit.

Summer interrupts schooling.

For students, schedules and locations become completely different. There could be freedom to launch a yard work business, such as the one by the Warren VT-based Fretz brothers. Some students work at a family or local business, running cash registers, preparing food, balancing books, raising livestock or changing the world.

Other students see a need in the world and craft a project to address it.

After losing her summer internships, student Lia Rubel, of Barre VT, leaned in on a Yale University project that turns unwanted, aged-out tech devices into lifelines to healthcare for elderly Vermonters. Rubel sourced devices and raised funds and coordinated with others in the national network. Vermont is a better place because of her work.

Students in Winooski VT, formed a group called the Winooski Students for Anti-Racism. En masse, they showed up their school board’s July meeting. Over Zoom, one by one, they spoke of their experiences with racism, and the need for urgent change. They looked at the world and stepped forward to make it a better place.

In the summer, community organizations, too, step up their game, opening additional service pathways for students. The Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC), for instance, this past summer increased food deliveries around Washington County to alleviate food insecurity this summer. Young adults perform various tasks around the VYCC’s food stand and farms.

Students stay busy in summer, is what.

They stay involved and curious and relaxed and hard-working and loud and energetic. They keep going.

And when pandemic things happen, students stay flexible. They double down.

In Essex, VT, brothers Nathan and Henry Wu had been touring Vermont, performing classical music on cello and violin at libraries around the state. When the pandemic hit, they didn’t want to lose the opportunity to share their passion and proficiency. They’d worked on the library tour for two full years: learning how to communicate and organize events (transferable skill), figuring out a manageable schedule (reflection), determining what to say about the pieces they learned (transferable skill).

And of course, practicing. (Proficiency.)

So, working with the VT Department of Libraries, the Wu brothers put together a Facebook Livestream event for their senior showcase. They taught themselves live-streaming technology. They wrote and published a program to accompany the music. And they had to figure out a comments policy, and learn what Facebook stats mean.

Now, imagine what the Wu brothers’ PLPs look like.

And that’s what we’re asking of ourselves right now, and you too. (Caveat: only if you have the capacity. If you just need to go lie down in the dandelions for a few months and come back? We’ll still be here asking.)

How can a fundamental interruption to the way we have practiced schooling be tied to the way we see students pursuing learning outside the classroom and the school day?

Unlock & encourage Flexible Pathways

When students need to attend school remotely, we naturally ask: what are they doing with the rest of their time? What are they reading, watching, making and learning about? Act 77’s Flexible Pathways mandate creates a way for students who spend their time away from school and screen to “legitimize” self-directed inquiries.

Valid learning experiences can look like:

  • volunteering at the library and developing a new summer reading program
  • teaching Sunday School
  • teaching garlic braiding classes at your family’s farm and producing a video tutorial on it for the farm website
  • building a YouTube channel of PSA remixes you send to local radio stations
  • becoming a published author
  • using a photography drone to map out the species of trees at a planned town development site

Valid learning experiences can look like putting surplus tech devices in the hands of seniors. They can look like developing a series of classical music concerts at local libraries.

And flexible pathways create ways for us to formally recognize those.

They make space for students with big ideas they want to try.

Support PLPs

One of the best parts of working on our blog, our videos, and our podcasts, are hearing stories from students. It’s hard to find an adult who doesn’t enjoy hearing from students — especially when learning is working.

And PLPs are those stories made real.

PLPs with this kind of evidence also can signal to the viewer the expansive skill sets students have mastered. The breadth of skills they can bring to the table. How could we expand the audience for student PLPs? If we think of the PLP as a living, breathing story in motion, what chapters would you want to read? What kinds of stories will captivate students and their families, and make them turn the pages outside of a student-led conference?

Implement robust Proficiency-Based Assessments

A wise old owl (named Susan Hennessey) once told us:

“Systems don’t change until credit systems change.”

We have the power right now to change the way we look at giving credit for learning. Whether it’s via micro-credentials or enhanced transcripts, proficiency-based assessments make it possible for us to design ways of both providing guidance on and pushing students toward skills-based self-directed learning.

And now: a word about equity.

None of this works unless it works for everyone. That’s it. That’s the tweet.

We know that even with Vermont’s progressive Act 77 legislation, we need to keep working on equalizing access to these opportunities for every student. It’s difficult to pursue self-directed learning when you’re struggling with trauma. When you’re crushed by racism. When you’re helping your family put food on the table. Fighting for equity must be part of every conversation on innovative school change.

And right now the best answer we can come up with is to keep fighting.

Put them all together and you get–

You get busy, capable, engaged students pursuing learning outside the classroom and the school day. Students who can show you an array of skills, detailed and accredited. Students who have documented stories to share to back up experience and skills both.

Basically: if we eliminated all the constraints, how could we imagine summer learning opportunities as a blueprint for student engagement?

What are some other keys you’re seeing to unlocking the potential of a disrupted school system during this time?

5 summer mindsets to bring into this year

#1st5days icon: which word will define your start to the new school year?It’s September. Your feet have probably not stopped moving for a few weeks, with the start of school, the meetings, getting to know your students, setting up all the systems and explaining all the procedures, learning about all the new changes in your schools.

You might feel like your brain has too many tabs open.

Stop for a moment. Summer is not yet a disappearing memory. And while summer can be busy in different ways, with other work, professional development, family travel and childcare, it can also give us shiny jewels of ways of being that can last all year. I’m hoping you had a chance to stop — really stop — and enjoy some time with friends and family. That can be the fuel that helps guide the school year.

Continue reading 5 summer mindsets to bring into this year