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.
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.
What are some of your favorite read alouds?
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