March 12, 2019 - Michael Salinger

Michigan Reading Association ’19, Grand Rapids, MI


So, Sara and I slept in the same bed as the President of France. Well maybe not the exact same bed – he did stay in the same room 38 years earlier they’ve probably replaced the mattress since then.

Michigan Reading always treats us like we’re actually important, but they went out of their way this time. When Sara and I entered the suite that they had given us for their annual conference we looked at each other and laughed. “They must have made a mistake!” Sara thought out loud. “Well, I’m not telling.” I replied.


The opulent lobby of the Amway Grand Hotel – that’s a whole lot of soap powder sold there that is.

Of course, there was no mistake – I’m sure they got some suite sweet deals by booking as many rooms as they did, and it was really generous of the powers that be to slip us one.

Great treatment is something we’ve come to expect from our friends in the mitten state. We are return presenters at their summer conference and have been to their big winter extravaganza several times too. We shared the podiums this time with some of the big wigs in literacy and had the first opportunity to sign our new Scholastic teacher resource – From Striving to Thriving Writers – with all three collaborators because Steph Harvey was also in attendance. (I didn’t ask her what kind of room she got – I didn’t want to jinx our own deal.)


Getting the room set up for our morning break out – we were rescued by the tech guy Nick who got our projectors talking to each other. Always make friends with the tech guys and gals!

I presented, with Sara providing shrewd and applicable interjections, on our writing element approach to writing instruction in an early breakout where I worked with about a dozen folks on a strategy to help students really understand metaphor well beyond the “comparison without using like or as” trope. Donalyn Miller was speaking opposite my session about the importance of book choice, availability, classroom libraries and loads of other critical and time-tested truths of literacy. Her book, written with Michigan educator Colby Sharpe, Game Changer chronicles a whole bunch of these concepts in one place. A must have. Even though our numbers were few – we sat around one large round table together – we really connected an I’m looking forward to the student samples our participants promised.


The room for our second session was a little bigger.

Our afternoon session co-presented with Stephanie Harvey was well attended and well received – we’re dialing in our jumpstart writing message and the practices we’ve developed in the classroom over the last couple decades are resonating with teachers who know they have students who could use a little extra boost in their writing instruction.


Steph Harvey’s afternoon keynote informed us to Table the Labels, bury book snobbery and that the best intervention is a book!

Our final session was Sara presenting on her Jane Addams award winning novel, The Enemy. I played tech guy and cheerleader in the back of the room. Then we had to say goodbye to our luxurious home away from home – but we sure looked forward to waking up in our own bed.


Sara presented on her novel, The Enemy, in the Gerald Ford room – continuing our presidential theme for the weekend.

So, thanks Michigan Reading for treating us like the President of France – and we’ll see you this Summer at Shanty Creek for the warm weather version of the conference!


We chowed down Wolfgang Puck style with some Michigander educators thanks to the dinner sponsored by Scholastic. 

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“Sara and Michael bring infectious energy and joy leavened with deep knowledge of best practices in literacy to their work with children and teachers.” Ellin Keene – Author of Mosaic of Thought and The Teacher You Want to Be
“Sara and Michael bring magic, and a contagious love of words to both students and teachers alike!” Georgia Heard - Author of Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School More testimonials...