By Readingintheborderlands

This blog has been quiet for the past week as I’ve focused on getting my summer to-do list finished and my fall semester to-do list underway. However, there are a few things coming up for the blog that I’m excited about. First, a new semester means new students that I can coerce encourage to write posts about their literacy learning and experience. Second, a colleague and I have been working on a research project exploring family literacy in the Rio Grande Valley. We’ll be sharing a series of posts discussing this research and what it means for borderlands teachers.

Keep checking back with us! More regular posts are on their way.


Another Chance to See Author David Rice

By Readingintheborderlands

I just ran across this announcement–if you missed David Rice on Thursday, you can still see him this coming Sunday at the Museum of South Texas History.

Community Book Swap Tomorrow

By Readingintheborderlands

There will be a community book swap tomorrow (Aug. 20) at 9am. Bring books that you are finished with and pick up books you want to read! The event is at the Morgan Stanley Building (7000 N. 10th St.) in McAllen. Call Damien Saenz at 956-789-4743 for more information. No cost–but you need to bring at least one book to participate.

Conference Season Is Approaching…

By Readingintheborderlands

Two of my favorite literacy conferences take place during the fall semester. Registration is now open for the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention, held the weekend before Thanksgiving. This year it will be in Chicago, Illinois.  I hadn’t planned to attend this year, but my doctoral advisor is receiving an award and I want to help celebrate her accomplishments. NCTE is a fantastic conference for literacy educators at all levels. Go!

Registration will soon be open for the Literacy Research Association Annual Conference, which will be held right after Thanksgiving in Jacksonville, Florida. This is the one conference I attend every year that I possibly can. I love it. If you are interested in literacy research this is a wonderful conference.

If you’re looking for professional development a little closer to home, the Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts will hold their conference in January 2012 in Austin.

Time for School!

By Readingintheborderlands

Teachers across the Rio Grande Valley are headed back to school. Here are some teacher and school related children’s books to start off your year:

For beginning readers School by Emily Arnold McCully offers a wordless story about a small child who eagerly sneaks into school to join her siblings there.




First Year Letters by Julie Danneberg uses a letter format to tell the story of the tribulations and successes of a brand new teacher and her young students.




Two poetry books for intermediate readers focus on school experiences. Don’t Read this Book, Whatever You Do! by Kalli Dakos contains fun poetry from a variety of perspectives. The D- Poems of Jeremy Bloom: A Collection of Poems About School, Homework, and Life (Sort Of) by Gordon Korman shares the assignments of the fictional Jeremy Bloom, a reluctant poet and expert mistake-maker.



Older readers will enjoy the funny historical fiction novel, The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck. When the local teacher dies and the one-room school is threatened with closure, a 15 year old is horrified when his older sister volunteers to take over the class.

More from Valley Authors

By Readingintheborderlands

There’s a new anthology featuring Valley authors!  The book, Along the River: An Anthology of Voices from the Rio Grande River, contains 60 original short stories and poemsIt is edited by David Bowles, who works at Donna ISD and teaches classes at UTPA. describes the book:

These unique voices combine in a harmony of Mexican and American, of magical and ordinary, of tragedy and triumph. From established writers to emerging talents, the contributors to this volume represent the depth and beauty of a community that is just beginning to make itself heard.

In another Valley-related literacy event, David Rice, author of Crazy Loco, will host a reading and book signing of his latest book, Heart Shaped Cookies and Other Stories. This will be Thursday, August 18, at Sekula Memorial Library in Edinburg. Call 956-383-6246 for more information and to RSVP.

Requesting Letters of Recommendation

By Readingintheborderlands

Part of my job as a professor is writing letters of recommendation for students and former students who are looking for work or who are applying to doctoral programs. I get a lot of these requests, and generally I’m happy to write the letters. However, some students seem unfamiliar with the professional etiquette and practical aspects surrounding letters of recommendation.

As someone requesting a letter of recommendation, you have a few responsibilities:

  • Ask the right person. It needs to be someone you have a good professional relationship with and someone who can be positive about your qualities for the job/program that you are applying to. It’s usually best to ask someone that you’ve had several courses with or who has known you over several years, though I realize that’s not always possible.
  • Some applications now ask for recommender information then contact the recommender through an online system or a phone call. DO NOT give out a professor’s name, address or email for a recommendation unless you have already asked if they would be willing to do one.
  • Ask someone you think will actually write the letter. Unfortunately, some professors will enthusiastically agree to do a recommendation, then never follow through.  It’s unprofessional, but happens.
  • Request the letter of recommendation AT LEAST two weeks before it is due. Your letter is only one of dozens of tasks the professor needs to complete, so give plenty of time for the professor to fit in into their schedule.
  • Once the professor has agreed to write the letter, send them an email with the following information: a short description of the position/program that you are applying to, an updated resume/vita, the name and address of who the letter should be sent to, and a reminder of the deadline. You also might want to remind the professor of that brilliant class project you completed or other achievements related to whatever you are applying to. A pre-addressed envelope is always nice, too.
  • Follow up with the professor as the deadline approaches. This isn’t rude or presumptuous—it’s practical. Professors forget things. Also, ask the professor to inform you when they’ve sent off the letter.
  • Say thank you!

Finally, most professors really appreciate it when you let them know if you’ve been accepted or rejected from whatever you’re applying for.

As a professor I also have some responsibilities in this process. These include:

  • Only agreeing to do a recommendation if I feel I can write a positive letter.  If I don’t have good things to say about the student, I tell the student they need to ask someone else.
  • Meeting the deadline.

Follow these steps and you should get enthusiastic recommendation letters!