Review: Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl

kidslikeuscoverby Audrey Fisch

At the NJCTE Fall 2019 conference, we inaugurated a new tradition – the authors’ breakfast. More than 10 local and regional authors gathered to socialize and share their work with NJCTE members and conference attendees. It was a wonderful new event, initiated by NJCTE Board Member and Fall Conference Co-chair Denise Weintraut.

At the event, I had the great privilege to speak with Hilary Reyl, author of Kids Like Us, published in 2017 by Square Fish/Macmillan. She gifted me a signed copy of her novel, which I had the great delight of finishing on a recent cold evening. I know that many NJCTE members share with me the feeling of wonder and delight of meeting an author and marveling at their ability to create a moving, compelling universe in the words of their text. Beyond the pleasures of the classroom and the work we do with our students, surely this is one of the great delights of our roles as teachers of English.

Let me recommend to you, then, the world of Kids Like Us, the brilliant and deeply satisfying work of Hilary Reyl. The novel revolves around Martin Dubois, a bilingual, autistic young teen who finds himself navigating a “general-ed” school and a constellation of neurotypical kids in France while his filmmaker mother does her work and his sister prepares for medical school and navigates a break-up. Martin is also processing the loss of his father to prison and navigating a long-distance friendship with Layla, his best friend from the Center, the special school for kids on the spectrum they attend together in Los Angeles.

Martin processes life through the angle of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time; his friend Layla has an “affinity” to Downtown Abbey. They and their peers at the Center use affinities as a “portal into real life,” and so Search, as Martin calls it, functions as a kind of ur-text, the prism through which he makes sense out of everything and everyone.

It’s a marvelous conceit, and it functions perfectly well even for those who don’t know (or have forgotten, like me) their Proust. We watch as Martin falls for a girl who to him is Proust’s Gilberte, and we see him navigate how Alice (Gilberte) is and is not a magical Proustian character. Martin makes his way in this world, coming to recognize his strengths and weaknesses as an autistic person, and to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the people around him as they do and do not successfully navigate the complex social interactions of the world.

Along the way, Reyl gently raises some fundamental questions about whether the therapeutic model in relation to people on the autism spectrum needs to move away from cures and normalization. Martin, at one point, asks his mother if she would be okay if he were gay and then spells out the analogy for her: “I think the point is that we don’t need to be cured, like gay people don’t need to be cured.” This thoughtful, provocative moment in the novel, however, is in no way strident or pedantic. Instead, what makes the novel so charming and moving is how it allows the reader to journey alongside Martin, and in so doing celebrate his growth and success at making friends and finding love at his general-ed school.

Kids Like Us will, of course, be compared with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Reyl’s novel, however, unlike Mark Haddon’s, is young adult literature at its finest. The novel is first and foremost focused on the young man at the center of the novel. Reyl needs no greater drama than the struggle of a young man working to find his voice and place in the world. Martin, like the protagonists of many great YA texts, comes to understand and appreciate what makes him unique and to connect with and empathize with his peers.

Along the way, of course, readers do the same: We come to understand and appreciate what makes Martin and Layla unique and special, but also what they have in common with their neurotypical peers, also struggling with anger, emotion, and a complicated world of class, adults, beer, and kissing.

Thanks, Hilary Reyl, for bringing me into that world for the space of the novel (and beyond). Thanks to all the wonderful authors who so generously came to the Fall 2019 NJCTE conference and shared their work with us. And thanks, Denise Weintraut and NJCTE, for making all of this happen and bringing me together with more great authors and books.

Review: Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl

Register Now for Back-to-School Tech Webinar with Katie Nieves 8/26

Join us and technology guru and NJCTE board member Katie Nieves on Monday, August 26th, at 6:30 PM for our first professional development webinar! We will focus on technology to use as we head into the new school year.

Come discover some technology tools that you could immediately integrate into your classroom! Register using this Google Form to receive the webinar URL. Following the webinar, all attendees will receive a certificate for 1 hour of PD for their participation.


Also, don’t forget to register for the NJCTE Fall ConferenceEARLY REGISTRATION ENDS SEPTEMBER 4!

Mark your calendar for A Vision for the Future – Practices Designed for Success: September 21, 2019, at Kenneth R. Olson Middle School in Tabernacle, NJ. As usual, we will have 3 dynamic sessions with presentations from a wide range of teacher educators sharing best practices. You will also hear from keynote speaker, Dr. Kristen Turner.

And new this year: Join us for an authors’ breakfast (extra fee required). Start the day off right with breakfast with over 20 authors!

Register Now for Back-to-School Tech Webinar with Katie Nieves 8/26

NJCTE Summer Book Club Slow Chat Starts Today — Join us!

connectedreading coverConnected Reading by Troy Hicks and Kristen Hawley Turner

Weekdays August 5th-16th on Twitter

In anticipation of Kristen Hawley Turner’s keynote address at the 2019 Fall Conference: Practices Designed for Success and in recognition of the importance of summer professional development for teachers, we have designed the first annual NJCTE Summer Book Club Slow Chat on Twitter. Join us and earn six professional development credits while connecting with fellow literacy educators in New Jersey.

Have you purchased your copy of Connected Reading yet? If not, there is still plenty of time! You can purchase the print version or the e-book from the NCTE Store until August 16th. NJCTE and NCTE members can use the code READ19 to receive a 15% discount. Mark your calendar, buy your copy of the book, and get ready to join our conversation on Twitter! 

Read a chapter a day or read the entire book before the chat dates — whatever works for you! Below are the chat questions for those of you who like to prepare in advance. Most will appear in an abbreviated form in tweets, so reference this for more details:

Monday, August 5th: Introduction

Slow Chat Q1: Welcome! Before we begin discussing the book, please introduce yourself, and share which digital texts you most enjoy reading. If possible, share a link to the text itself or a summary of the text. #NJCTE

Tuesday, August 6th: Chapter One

Slow Chat Q2: Why might some literacy educators marginalize digital texts in their instructional choices? What actions might we take in our classrooms and schools to “move beyond these hesitancies” (14)? #NJCTE

Wednesday, August 7th: Chapter Two

Slow Chat Q3: In Chapter Two, Turner and Hicks focus on the recursive processes of connected reading: ENCOUNTERING, ENGAGING and EVALUATING texts. In what ways do you enter into this process yourself as you read digital texts? #NJCTE

Thursday, August 8th: Chapter Three

Slow Chat Q4: In Chapter Three, the authors share a number of anecdotes and experiences to illustrate what mindfulness about digital reading looks like. How are you more mindful of your digital reading practices after reading this chapter? #NJCTE

Friday, August 9th: Chapter Four

Slow Chat Q5: In Chapter Four, Turner and Hicks show how students “move fluidly between print and digital texts” (58). Nonetheless, “they may not realize that digital tools can help them to curate in a way that keeps them focused” (67). How might we help students articulate and discover their intentions and purposes as they navigate both print and digital texts? #NJCTE

Monday, August 12th: Chapter Five

Slow Chat Q6: In Chapter Five, the authors unpack a variety of approaches and rationales for creating shared digital annotations as they read print texts. What might shared annotation look like in your classroom and school? #NJCTE

Tuesday, August 13th: Chapter Six

Slow Chat Q7: Throughout Chapter Six, Turner and Hicks offer abundant examples of “intentional instruction surrounding digital texts” (124). What practices were you rethinking as you read this chapter? #NJCTE

Wednesday, August 14th: Chapter Seven

Slow Chat Q8: In Chapter Seven, the authors underscore the value of offering students “micro-bursts of short- and mid-form reading that can fuel their learning” (127). What unit of instruction or area of required curriculum might be notably improved through the introduction of digital texts — short-, mid-, and long-form? #NJCTE

Thursday, August 15th: Chapter Eight

Slow Chat Q9: In their final chapter, Turner and Hicks reference Will Richardson’s claim that “teachers must be users before they ask their students to engage with technologies” (142). Today, take some time to tinker with several of the many resources the authors have mentioned in this chapter or in previous ones. Share your learning as a user of the technology. How might it inform your future practices this year? #NJCTE

Friday, August 16th: Closing Reflections

Slow Chat Q10: Please share how you plan to implement strategies shared by the authors this coming school year. In the spirit of the book’s intent, please include screenshots and/or digitally annotated passages from this book or another one you are reading to share your learning with this network. #NJCTE

NJCTE Summer Book Club Slow Chat Starts Today — Join us!

Join the NJCTE Summer Book Club Slow Chat Starting August 5!

connectedreading coverConnected Reading by Troy Hicks and Kristen Hawley Turner

Weekdays August 5th-16th on Twitter

NJCTE is thrilled to feature Kristen Hawley Turner at our 2019 Fall Conference: Practices Designed for Success, Saturday, September 21, 2019, 9-1:30 (with an authors’ breakfast 8-9) at Kenneth R. Olson Middle School, Tabernacle, NJ. Registration is now open!

In anticipation of Kristen Hawley Turner’s talk and in recognition of the importance of summer professional development for teachers, we have designed the first annual NJCTE Summer Book Club Slow Chat on Twitter. Join us and earn six professional development credits while connecting with fellow literacy educators in New Jersey.

Have you purchased your copy of Connected Reading yet? If not, there is still plenty of time! You can purchase the print version or the e-book from the NCTE Store between July 1st and August 16th. NJCTE and NCTE members can use the code READ19 to receive a 15% discount. Mark your calendar, buy your copy of the book, and get ready to join our conversation on Twitter! 

Read a chapter a day or read the entire book before the chat dates — whatever works for you! Below are the chat questions for those of you who like to prepare in advance. Most will appear in an abbreviated form in tweets, so reference this for more details:

Monday, August 5th: Introduction

Slow Chat Q1: Welcome! Before we begin discussing the book, please introduce yourself, and share which digital texts you most enjoy reading. If possible, share a link to the text itself or a summary of the text. #NJCTE

Tuesday, August 6th: Chapter One

Slow Chat Q2: Why might some literacy educators marginalize digital texts in their instructional choices? What actions might we take in our classrooms and schools to “move beyond these hesitancies” (14)? #NJCTE

Wednesday, August 7th: Chapter Two

Slow Chat Q3: In Chapter Two, Turner and Hicks focus on the recursive processes of connected reading: ENCOUNTERING, ENGAGING and EVALUATING texts. In what ways do you enter into this process yourself as you read digital texts? #NJCTE

Thursday, August 8th: Chapter Three

Slow Chat Q4: In Chapter Three, the authors share a number of anecdotes and experiences to illustrate what mindfulness about digital reading looks like. How are you more mindful of your digital reading practices after reading this chapter? #NJCTE

Friday, August 9th: Chapter Four

Slow Chat Q5: In Chapter Four, Turner and Hicks show how students “move fluidly between print and digital texts” (58). Nonetheless, “they may not realize that digital tools can help them to curate in a way that keeps them focused” (67). How might we help students articulate and discover their intentions and purposes as they navigate both print and digital texts? #NJCTE

Monday, August 12th: Chapter Five

Slow Chat Q6: In Chapter Five, the authors unpack a variety of approaches and rationales for creating shared digital annotations as they read print texts. What might shared annotation look like in your classroom and school? #NJCTE

Tuesday, August 13th: Chapter Six

Slow Chat Q7: Throughout Chapter Six, Turner and Hicks offer abundant examples of “intentional instruction surrounding digital texts” (124). What practices were you rethinking as you read this chapter? #NJCTE

Wednesday, August 14th: Chapter Seven

Slow Chat Q8: In Chapter Seven, the authors underscore the value of offering students “micro-bursts of short- and mid-form reading that can fuel their learning” (127). What unit of instruction or area of required curriculum might be notably improved through the introduction of digital texts — short-, mid-, and long-form? #NJCTE

Thursday, August 15th: Chapter Eight

Slow Chat Q9: In their final chapter, Turner and Hicks reference Will Richardson’s claim that “teachers must be users before they ask their students to engage with technologies” (142). Today, take some time to tinker with several of the many resources the authors have mentioned in this chapter or in previous ones. Share your learning as a user of the technology. How might it inform your future practices this year? #NJCTE

Friday, August 16th: Closing Reflections

Slow Chat Q10: Please share how you plan to implement strategies shared by the authors this coming school year. In the spirit of the book’s intent, please include screenshots and/or digitally annotated passages from this book or another one you are reading to share your learning with this network. #NJCTE

Join the NJCTE Summer Book Club Slow Chat Starting August 5!

NJCTE Summer Book Club Slow Chat Schedule and Questions

connectedreading coverConnected Reading by Troy Hicks and Kristen Hawley Turner

Weekdays August 5th-16th on Twitter

NJCTE is thrilled to feature Kristen Hawley Turner at our 2019 Fall Conference: Practices Designed for Success, Saturday, September 21, 2019, 9-1:30 (with an authors’ breakfast 8-9) at Kenneth R. Olson Middle School, Tabernacle, NJ. Registration is now open!

In anticipation of Kristen Hawley Turner’s talk and in recognition of the importance of summer professional development for teachers, we have designed the first annual NJCTE Summer Book Club Slow Chat on Twitter. Join us and earn six professional development credits while connecting with fellow literacy educators in New Jersey.

Have you purchased your copy of Connected Reading yet? If not, there is still plenty of time! You can purchase the print version or the e-book from the NCTE Store between July 1st and August 16th. NJCTE and NCTE members can use the code READ19 to receive a 15% discount. Mark your calendar, buy your copy of the book, and get ready to join our conversation on Twitter! 

Read a chapter a day or read the entire book before the chat dates — whatever works for you! Below are the chat questions for those of you who like to prepare in advance. Most will appear in an abbreviated form in tweets, so reference this for more details:

Monday, August 5th: Introduction

Slow Chat Q1: Welcome! Before we begin discussing the book, please introduce yourself, and share which digital texts you most enjoy reading. If possible, share a link to the text itself or a summary of the text. #NJCTE

Tuesday, August 6th: Chapter One

Slow Chat Q2: Why might some literacy educators marginalize digital texts in their instructional choices? What actions might we take in our classrooms and schools to “move beyond these hesitancies” (14)? #NJCTE

Wednesday, August 7th: Chapter Two

Slow Chat Q3: In Chapter Two, Turner and Hicks focus on the recursive processes of connected reading: ENCOUNTERING, ENGAGING and EVALUATING texts. In what ways do you enter into this process yourself as you read digital texts? #NJCTE

Thursday, August 8th: Chapter Three

Slow Chat Q4: In Chapter Three, the authors share a number of anecdotes and experiences to illustrate what mindfulness about digital reading looks like. How are you more mindful of your digital reading practices after reading this chapter? #NJCTE

Friday, August 9th: Chapter Four

Slow Chat Q5: In Chapter Four, Turner and Hicks show how students “move fluidly between print and digital texts” (58). Nonetheless, “they may not realize that digital tools can help them to curate in a way that keeps them focused” (67). How might we help students articulate and discover their intentions and purposes as they navigate both print and digital texts? #NJCTE

Monday, August 12th: Chapter Five

Slow Chat Q6: In Chapter Five, the authors unpack a variety of approaches and rationales for creating shared digital annotations as they read print texts. What might shared annotation look like in your classroom and school? #NJCTE

Tuesday, August 13th: Chapter Six

Slow Chat Q7: Throughout Chapter Six, Turner and Hicks offer abundant examples of “intentional instruction surrounding digital texts” (124). What practices were you rethinking as you read this chapter? #NJCTE

Wednesday, August 14th: Chapter Seven

Slow Chat Q8: In Chapter Seven, the authors underscore the value of offering students “micro-bursts of short- and mid-form reading that can fuel their learning” (127). What unit of instruction or area of required curriculum might be notably improved through the introduction of digital texts — short-, mid-, and long-form? #NJCTE

Thursday, August 15th: Chapter Eight

Slow Chat Q9: In their final chapter, Turner and Hicks reference Will Richardson’s claim that “teachers must be users before they ask their students to engage with technologies” (142). Today, take some time to tinker with several of the many resources the authors have mentioned in this chapter or in previous ones. Share your learning as a user of the technology. How might it inform your future practices this year? #NJCTE

Friday, August 16th: Closing Reflections

Slow Chat Q10: Please share how you plan to implement strategies shared by the authors this coming school year. In the spirit of the book’s intent, please include screenshots and/or digitally annotated passages from this book or another one you are reading to share your learning with this network. #NJCTE

NJCTE Summer Book Club Slow Chat Schedule and Questions

Registration Now Open for 2019 Fall Conference

A Vision for the Future: Practices Designed for Success

Chaired by Joe Pizzo and Denise Weintraut

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2019

Kenneth R. Olson Middle School, Tabernacle, NJ

REGISTRATION NOW OPEN

As usual, we will have 3 dynamic sessions with presentations from a wide range of teacher educators sharing best practices. You will also hear from keynote speaker, Dr. Kristen Turner (more details below).

And new this year: Join us for an optional authors’ breakfast at 8am. Start the day off right with breakfast with over 20 authors!

Register now to ensure that you get the early registration rate. 

What is the future of literacy instruction? Whether in our classrooms, online, or with new AI technology on the horizon, change is inevitable, and we must prepare ourselves for the future.

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Kristen Hawley Turner (@teachkht– professor and director of teacher education at Drew University in New Jersey.  Her research focuses on the intersections between technology and literacy, and she works with teachers across content areas to implement effective literacy instruction and to incorporate technology in meaningful ways. She is the co-author of Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World (the focus of our Summer Book Study Slow Chat starting August 5th!) and Argument in the Real World: Teaching Students to Read and Write Digital Texts. She is also the founder and director of the Drew Writing Project and Digital Literacies Collaborative.

Educators at any level and at any phase of their career, including pre-service teachers, are encouraged to attend.

The conference is an affordable professional development opportunity. Conference registration includes lunch and an NJCTE membership. A separate Authors Breakfast featuring 20+ writers, 8am-9am, is planned for an additional charge (discounted with conference registration).

Registration Now Open for 2019 Fall Conference