Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Reading for Research Challenge Reflections

By Keila V. Dawson

Although the 2019 Reading for Research challenge has ended, reading for research continues. In this post, participants shared what they’ve discovered and or learned during our March challenge. 

(Photo courtesy of Cheryl Cook Johnson)

I have two notebooks I use for PB studies. I like how I do notes for fiction ~ character, problem, inciting event/escalation, resolution, and book concept.  …any suggestions [for NF] would be greatly appreciated. – Cheryl Cook Johnson

For a nonfiction PB, I've been keeping a log of other NF PBs with relevant details such as word count, reading level, if quotes were used or not (imagined or real), sidebars, back matter and other (if any) techniques used. Also looking at and logging first lines and last lines in mentor texts to help educate and inspire. - Kate Harold
I used to just type out my mentor texts but now I'm analyzing them more in regards to theme & language used, etc. I mainly type up mentor texts of books I fall in love with. - Nicole Salter Braun

I would say how much I've identified my oldest son in the boy [character] in NANA UPSTAIRS, NANA DOWNSTAIRS I’ve really enjoyed reading the bios as well. I’ve enjoyed the style and structure of them all. I never would have thought to write a bio, but now I’m reconsidering. They were informational and fun. - Ashley Congdon

Writing Down first and last lines and learning lots! - Susan Karunama Twiggs
“I don't think I would write a story without some sort of resolution…or at least an implied resolution.” Laura Jenkins (after reading and discussing “Little Brown” with her son)

I learned that I have very specific taste when it comes to what I enjoy in a picture book. …reading so many varied mentor texts helped me define the types of picture books I enjoy reading AND writing.  - Susie Sawyer
I take notes and save those articles that speak to me. I'm working on a story about friendship. IVER AND ELLSWORTH helped me get beyond the words to feel the emotion. The structure of the story guided me as I figured out the pagination of my manuscript.Charlotte Dixon

I'm in a long-standing critique group [and] look out for mentor texts for my CPs that fit what they may be working on. Sometimes we actually read mentor texts aloud via Google chats in our online critique group. Kathy Halsey

The many benefits of participating in the annual Reading for Research challenge include reading current titles, finding mentor texts that help us with a work in progress, inspiring us to write in a different format or structure, discovering comparative titles, and learning more about our personal interests. Although these benefits differ for every participant, everyone takes the challenge for the same reason, to grow as writers. I did. I hope you did too.


  1. ReFoReMo pushed me to the library more than once a week. Now, librarians greet me with "Oh! You're the picture book writer." My writing stretched and grew through the musical and clever phrases I collected:"...sticking to the trees in clumps and curls." (Winter Is Here by Kevin Henkes) Rereading these notes has helped develop my own voice. Nonfiction fascinates me. Researching PB nonfiction inspires me to try one or two or three. I discovered several cleverly-written, motivating stories. Laurie Hernandez's style in her book She's Got This captures the struggle and stamina of an Olympic gymnast. "What matters most isn't how often you fall but how often you get back up." That line spoke to me, especially when I thought about the "oomph" I feel with each publisher rejection. I laughed all throughout The Fruit Bowl by Mark Hoffman with his punny humor. "You'll have to split," said banana to tomato." This Book Is Spineless by Lindsay Leslie is one of cleverest stories I read. I wrote volumes of notes, recording her way with words: "woozy weightlessness," rumbling rockets," full of foul-smelling fur beasts." I also discovered stories not fully developed, written without digging deep into the rhythms of words, and with disappointing resolutions. I scratched my head with the realization that our PB world isn't perfect. Thank you, Carrie and Kirsti, for challenging us to research more often. By the way, I'm buying two notebooks today. My legal pad of pages has run out!

    1. WOW Marsha! You certainly did ReFoReMo on steroids! Thanks so much for joining us.

  2. ReFoReMo is always a wonderful month. Even if suggested books are repeats, I love reading them with new eyes and fresh thoughts. Usually I am looking at something different, so wherever my eye is pointing, that is the spotlight and I learn something new. Thanks so much for organizing this great month-long event for us! :)

    1. Such a good point and I totally agree Angie. Sometimes others see something in books we don't.

  3. As a children's librarian, I've read almost all of the books suggested for ReFoReMo, but I read so many different picture books that I don't always have time to look at what makes them work. I love that ReFoReMo helps me slow down and examine them in detail. So helpful.

  4. So many ways to use ReFoReMo to improve our craft. The learning never stops!

  5. So very, very true Jilanne! Write on!

  6. I smoosh all my notes - Fiction & non - into one notebook and keep an index so I can find them. So good to see how others deconstruct the PBs - and gives me a couple more things to pay attention to. Thanks!