Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What makes a book the perfect read aloud?


For the past week, I have been "sitting with" A TANGLE OF KNOTS by Lisa Graff.  When I say "sitting with", I am referring more to the feeling that is left behind.  The one where you want to hold the book close to your chest in a tight embrace or find yourself lost in thought reliving a scene or two or thinking about what might happen if you used a line from the book as a snappy comeback.  Graff's newest book left me wanting to live in the world of talents and wondering about all the connections between peoples lives that are out there.


As I was having dinner last night with Kellee Moye, Nerdy Book Club friend and awesome educator, we chatted about read alouds.  I shared with her that last year I had read aloud THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate to at last 3 classes and how every class loved it.  What makes one book the perfect read aloud and another book simply one that we recommend a lot? Is it a feeling that one gets? Or is it something more.


Several years ago now I read aloud AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS by Gennifer Choldenko to a class.  At that time, I can honestly say I probably didn't have a good reason for why I picked the book.  Luckily, it turned out to be a great read aloud choice and the class & I had a lot of fun.  A few years later, I decided to read AL CAPONE again, but this time I was much more intentional.  I clustered it together with TURTLE IN PARADISE by Jennifer L. Holm and BUD, NOT BUDDY by Christopher Paul Curtis.   As a class, the students and I could discuss the Great Depression and 1935 from the perspectives of Moose, Turtle & Bud.  I added in snippets of movies and music and comics from that era to provide further background knowledge for students.
 

Being intentional about books plays a large role in selecting books for read alouds.  However, before that there has to be something else.  Some stories seem to have a special element that just works for a certain class or group of students.  When I finished reading TORTILLA SUN by Jennifer Cervantes, I just knew I had to share it with my students who come from a predominately Latino culture.  Here was a story that they might resonate with at a completely different level than they have with other books. 


At other times, when I read a book, a class will come to mind.  It might be a little like Miss Mallory's (from A Tangle of Knots) talent for matching orphans with their perfect families.  Is there a talent for matching just the right story, or book, or character to just the right class?  When I read MARTY MCGUIRE by Kate Messner, I immediately knew that the I had just the right class of second graders who would love Marty.  After reading it aloud to them, I knew a perfect match had been made.


Sometimes while I am reading a book, I find myself asking if my __________ (fill in the blank with whatever grade or class I am currently working with) would be able to read and understand a book.  I have a lot of students that are English Language Learners who often struggle with books with complicated vocabulary or ones with lots of imagery that they may not understand.  When I read GOBLIN SECRETS by William Alexander a few months ago, I realized that I must have mentally asked myself 5 or 6 times how I could make the book accessible to a class of fifth grade English Language Learners.  I realized that most would likely miss the meaning of many of the words and phrases leaving them with a less than satisfactory understanding of the book.  If I wanted them to appreciate the story and enjoy it as much as I had, then I would need to read it aloud.  Sharing a book through a read aloud can provide teachers with a means of making a wonderful book accessible for their students when it may be beyond their current independent reading level.


So back to A TANGLE OF KNOTS... as a read aloud.  Sometimes, a book just feels right for a read aloud.   You don't always need a super special reason for why you want to read a book aloud.  And right now this beautiful story is begging to be shared with a class of students.

What are some of your favorite read alouds?

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23 comments:

  1. Thanks for these recommendations! I'd heard of a couple but I'm always looking for new books to read to my nieces and nephews :-).

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  2. Oh, and I forgot to say, my favourite read aloud so far is 'Giraffes Can't Dance' by Giles Andreae, although I once read 'George's Marvellous Medicine' (Roald Dahl) to a nine-year-old French boy and he loved it!

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    1. George's Marvelous Medicine is wonderful.

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  3. Awesome books. My daughter is 15 so I sadly don't have any kids to read to. Lucky that you do.

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    1. Natalie - Do you share books with your daughter? I secretly think teens wouldn't mind a read aloud once in awhile.

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    2. I love Countdown by Deborah Wiles. It's fascinating historical fiction and very interactive with iTunes and YouTube.

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  4. So many of those are on my to-read list - sounds like they should be on my to-read-aloud list :) Currently my girls and I are halfway though The One and Only Ivan - we all love it so much, and yes, it's a GREAT read-aloud book!

    Our favorites are Pippi Longstocking, and all the Roald Dahl books.

    Also, I read the above comment, and I agree! My brother and I were read to until we were in high school, and all of us really loved it. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart, Over Sea, Understone by Susan Cooper, and the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander were my childhood favorites :)

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  5. Ack--raffle helicopter didn't like me today! No worries! CAPTURE THE FLAG by Kate Messner is a great read aloud. Those cliff hanger chapters have listeners begging for more. Thanks for all the great ideas!

    Lorna

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  6. You know how much I love Wonder so that is definitely a favorite simply because of students love for and connection to Auggie, though I think the read aloud that is most fun for me to read is Turtle in Paradise. The Diaper Gang never ceases to entertain me and keep me smiling.

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  7. Hershel and the Hanukah Goblins, Little Kitten's First Full Moon, Chester, Love that Dog, We are in a book!, Little Blue Little Yellow, My Many Colored Days, The Mitten- Brett, Knuffle Bunny, .... :)

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  8. I am reading Capture the Flag by Kate Messner to my 3rd grade class. They are loving it! It is so good for predicting and trying to figure out the mystery. They were upset that they have to wait a week until after vacation to figure what happens next.

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  9. My favorite read aloud is The Miraculous Journey of Eduard Tulane. However I read it last year and looped with my class, so this year I read The One and Only Ivan....I don't think I could choose a favorite between the two of them!

    Laurie
    Chickadee Jubilee

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  10. My daughter is 2.5 and we have just started reading short chapter books/early readers together. I have been so pleasantly surprised that she really loves them! So far we have read all of the "Mercy Watson" books and the "Penny" books (can't wait to read the new one that comes out today!). We can read these books all the way through in one setting with no problem. I am SO looking forward to reading more advanced books to her! Of course I have a long list of lit classics running through my mind, but I absolutely LOVE getting new suggestions. Any ideas for books with illustrations approx every other page that have manageable chapter length? I don't want to push her, but so far, she seems to really be enjoying more complex stories!

    Christy
    The Adventurous Mind
    http://crocodilefairytales.blogspot.com/

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  11. My goodness I love reading aloud to my class. I read a lot of children's chapter books and it sometimes can be so disappointing when I just love a book so much, but know it's not a good fit for my second graders. When I read The One and Only Ivan last summer, I knew I would be reading it to my class this year. I also like reading Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant and Poppy by Avi. I can't believe how many books you read! Thanks for giving me so many great book ideas. I can't wait to read A Tangle of Knots!

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  12. Oh, goodness. I have to choose just one? There are so many. Since I work in a library I share neat books all the time. I enjoyed sharing Young Samurai by Chris Bradford and The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen.

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  13. Great boks here Alyson. I have enjoyed reading Wonder and Ivan this year. Another "go to" books are Crash by Jerry Spinelli, The Power of Un and Boy by Roald Dahl.

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  14. I agree that choosing only one favorite is near impossible! One favorite from this year is "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio. I got so much mileage from that read aloud in building classroom community and helping students dialogue with one another about books--they were really passionate about Palacio's characters! Similarly, Sarah Aronson's book "Beyond Lucky" has been a great support in building the character of my students and their book conversations.

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  15. Hmmm... as a gifted resource teacher I don't get to do chapter book read alouds much. When I was a learning support teacher, though, I used to love reading Sign of the Beaver to my class. They were students who wouldn't have been able to read that on their own, and they loved being able to hear the tale.

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  16. I just finished The One and Only Ivan as. Read aloud. The kids loved hearing about Ivan and researching animals in captivity and comparing.

    Another favorite was. Lisa Graffiti book, Umbrella Summer. It promoted predicting and empathy. Great for discussion.

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  17. Alyson, I really appreciate this post. It is always important to give thought to what books fit which kids. Each group is so different. Sometimes I read a book and think it would make a perfect read aloud OR a perfect book club book for students OR a perfect book for personal reading. Sometimes the differences are so subtle. I did a post about this a few years ago (favourite read alouds) but need to update this list with new favourites: http://thereisabookforthat.com/book-recommendations/top-ten-read-alouds/

    Love a lot of the titles you have on your list. Can't wait to read my class Marty McGuire. We are currently reading Turtle in Paradise.

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  18. My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett is 64 years old and still captures the imagination of early elementary listeners! Humor, pathos, courage, and ingenuity, plus a cliffhanger at the end of every short chapter - what more could you ask from a read-aloud?

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  19. What was the reaction of your students when you read Turtle in Paradise? Did both your boy and girl students enjoy it? I'm curious to know!

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    1. Rebecca - Both boys and girls loved Turtle in Paradise. It has a lot of stuff that is a lot of fun to read.

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