Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reading Connections 2011 -2012

Spaceheadz is a fast moving adventure that would be best for third - fifth graders. Scieszka does a great job of capturing Michael K.'s thoughts and feelings even though it's written in third person narrative. Aliens sitting next to him in his classroom? How can that be? It would be a fun read aloud for third or fourth graders. I plan on reading portions of the book beginning on page 93 -94 to my classes next year as I introduce my media "wise" lessons explaining advertisements in the media. Not only would they see an example of gullibility in advertising (Bob and Jennifer) but they just might be turned on to reading a new book!

Funny Lunch would be a perfect book for kids to act out while reading aloud to a class For example, "We mix. We roll. We bake. ". Bringing in a chef's hat would enhance the acting out and be a fun touch too ("When I get dressed, I have to look just right.") I would read it aloud to my Kindergarten - Second graders. I would ask the classes to predict what Max will have to do next. As a culminating activity, we could make our own classroom book patterned after Funny Lunch. Perhaps it could be titled, "Crazy Dinner."

Word After Word After Word: I was excited to see this title on the camp booklist. Just this fall our district reading specialist said it was one of her favorites, by one of her favorite authors. I ordered the book for our library. I did a brief book talk on the book to our third and fourth grade teachers. I offered the suggestion of using the book as a read aloud to jump start Writer's Workshop for the year. It would also be a great resource to use during a poetry unit in the Language Arts class. The students will not only relate to the characters in the story and some of the problems facing the characters, but they will also deepen their appreciation for the written word.

Who doesn't love bubble gum? This is a fun nonfiction story about the invention of bubble gum and its inventor, Walter Diermer. I plan to read this book aloud to my third and fourth graders before the sign up for the inventor's fair begins next year. I see this book getting them excited about their own inventions. It demonstrates the need to work hard, try different ideas, and not give up when working on an invention! I like how the quotes are sprinkled throughout the text. I would point out the quotations to the students and have a discussion on primary and secondary sources for the older kids. The information about gum in the back of the book is fun to explore too. What a fun informational book!

A Pig Idea is a Terrible Idea: I began reading this book aloud to my four year old and 10 year old. The 10 year old was hooked! He enjoyed the bright illustrations, dialogue with the reader, and the irony of the story line. I would read this aloud in the Media Center to my first - fourth graders any day. The ending lends itself well to creating a whole group book about the "panda bear parade" and why "A Panda Bear Parade is a Terrible Idea." Or, they could create a series of illustrations to accompany "A Panda Bear Parade is a Terrible Idea." The thoughts could be organized using The illustrations could be designed using

There are two things I love about this biography. First of all, it tells us a little known fact about Abe Lincoln, he loved laughter. Secondly, the book impresses upon the reader the need for a sense of humor while navigating life's uncertain twists and turns. Sprinkling the quotations in the book was very meaningful. My favorite was when Lincoln asked his cabinet members, "Gentlemen, why don't you laugh?" I can envision many major decisions looming over the members and Lincoln trying to lighten up the room with laughter. I consider this book a read aloud for the older grade levels beginning with third graders. Even though second graders could easily understand the message. The third - fifth graders would have more prior knowledge of Lincoln, who he was, and what he did for our country. I think they would be able to appreciate it more than the younger students.

I recently recommended Wolf Pie by Brenda Seabrooke to a third grade teacher investigating fractured fairy tales with her students. The character developments of the three pigs and the wolf are fun to watch evolve. Third graders enjoyed the surprising turn of events and how the three pigs grow to care for and depend on the wolf in their midst. What a great example of team work too! The characters, including the down trodden wolf, worked together to fool the wolves coming from dinner! There are many themes that could be discussed while reading this book aloud to third graders. Cooperation, trying new things, and giving others the benefit of the doubt are just a few of the themes third graders could discuss while listening to Wolf Pie.

The last day of school I had the book Bridget’s Beret sitting up on the window sill in the story corner. I was reading it to my first graders and they loved it. They certainly could relate to having a favorite “good luck” charm when completing certain tasks. We also had fun discussions about knowing what we’re each good at and how we can develop our gifts to their fullest potential. I was not at all surprised when the fourth grade class sat down in the story corner and spied the book. Bridget, a girl in the class, begged me to read it to them. Of course I would. The fourth graders enjoyed it just as much as the first graders. Our discussions took on a deeper meaning when we talked about what a sense of belonging felt like, how our gifts can help others, and the importance of having a positive self esteem. I loved the artistic inspirations and tips in the back of the book, although we didn’t have time to read them aloud. I will definitely recommend this book to our Art Specialist!

The Boy Who Climbed into the Moon by David Almond has Tim Burton written all over it. I am not a big fan of Burton’s movies and this book was difficult book for me to read. With its surreal story line and sometimes advanced vocabulary, I thought it would be very hard for the average second or third grader to follow. A lot of the humor would be over their heads as well. A fifth grader might appreciate the humor but may not be drawn to this book because it looks like a lower level chapter book. This book falls in that grey area. Too difficult for younger kids to comprehend and too simplistic looking for the older student to self select.

Keena Ford and the Secret Journal Mix-Up reminded me of a female version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. As I was reading about Keena I was thinking to myself this is a great time to be teaching Writing Workshop to children with so many books out there that model journal entries. I do envision more third grade girls begin drawn to this series than any other grade level. There are sections of the book that would make great read alouds when discussing friendship issues. For example, on pages 107, 108, Keena and Linny ask Tiffany to play with them even though she hurt their feelings in the past. The speech Keena makes about Friendship would be helpful for all students in second and third grade to hear too. Many of the problems Keena faces are issues that second and third graders deal with every day at school. I will definitely recommend this book to my third grade students.

David LaRochelle’s visit at Camp Read A Lot last year was a lot of fun. I remember him giving us a sneak peak of Minnesota’s Hidden Alphabet. I love the nature pictures and find the short tidbits on each page informative. The amount of information is great for a read aloud for all ages because it’s not too overwhelming. The alphabet book would also be a fun independent read for third-fifth graders. It is the perfect book to read to students just before going on a nature hike! Students could be given the task to look for letters in nature themselves. Each student could take their drawing materials out with them and be responsible for drawing the letters they see. The class book could be a work in progress as I’m sure it would take several nature hikes to see all of the letters of the alphabet.

I ordered Guyku: a Year of Haiku for Boys this winter for our library. It came just in time to use it to kick off the poetry unit I completed with our Fourth Graders. I had several samplings of haiku for them to investigate. Then we explored the Guyku website which was a lot of fun: The website also includes little video clips of the author explaining why he wrote Haiku for boys and how the illustrator, Peter H. Reynolds, got into illustrating children's books. There are templates on the website to hand out to students to help them create their own haiku too. I look forward to purchasing their next Haiku book. Perhaps it will be Girlku: a Year of Haiku for Girls.

While reading The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz I had in mind a few third – fourth grade girls that would love the fantasy. Many of our girl readers are into fairies right now. The story line is simplistic yet elegant. I was enveloped in the adventure of Flory saving her hummingbird acquaintance. It’s easy to get lost in the miniature world of Flory too. The Night Fairy is a step up from the series of fairy series books we currently have in our library such as Rainbow Magic. I look forward to reading m ore of Schlitz’s books.

The Hallelujah Flight by Phil Bender was a new story to me. I enjoyed the story of James Banning following his dream of flying across the county, in spite of the prejudices people had at the time. This is a story of great courage, determination, and cooperation. Just how many other stories are out there in the history of our country do we not know about? Students always seem to research the well known figures of history. It would be fun to use James Banning as an example and challenge children to research the lesser known heroes of our time. Another fun activity to use with this book would be to “fly” with Google Earth to the places Mr. Banning did on his flight “from sea to shining sea.” This is a fun read aloud for any age!

Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin is one of those books that would make a great read aloud for grades 3 -5. Advanced 3rd graders may also enjoy reading it independently as well as students in fourth and fifth grades. If you liked Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, you will enjoy Anything But Typical. Told from the point of view of a boy that has autism, this book is perfect to help promote autism awareness. I included third grade as an age that could understand this book’s meaning because of the impact it would have on this age group. Discussions about empathy, self esteem, and acceptance would surely follow the chapters in this book. This is a book that all students should be in contact with!

Shoot-Out by Mike Lupika is a fun sports read. So often it’s difficult to find books that advanced 2nd and 3rd grade boys like to read that are content appropriate. This author would appeal to this age group as well as kids in grades 4 and on up. The story line is easy to follow, the characters are believable and the message is important. Jake is a great soccer player. When he moves to a new town, he gets placed on a team that isn’t the greatest. How does he deal with the other players on the team, his disappointments, and family changes? He is determined, upbeat, and learns a lesson in empathy.
Five of my son’s soccer teammates this year happen to be my students at school. I discovered this book and decided to give a copy to each player. I hope they like it as much as I did.

Snook Alone by Marilyn Nelson is an enduring tale of a faithful dog and his owner, a monk living a solitary life. The two get separated by a fierce storm at sea. Snook longs for his owner’s voice. He finds many fascinating discoveries on the island as he awaits the return of his owner. I really wasn’t as drawn into the adventures of Snook at the beginning of the book. As the book continued, I was curious as to whether or not the monk and Snook would be reunited. I do think older students, in grades 3 and 4, would appreciate this book best. It is told in prose and might be difficult for younger children to follow.

Mac and Cheese by Sarah Weeks is a fun romp for early readers. Advertised as a beginning reader, it is great for emerging readers in Kindergarten and First grade. Mac and Cheese are two cat friends who are very different from each other. I love the message of appreciating each other’s differences. This rhyming book is fun to read aloud.

How the Sphinx Got to the Museum will be a hit at our library. Children seem to be naturally interested in Ancient Egypt. I love this story that chronicles the journey of a sphinx from the pharaoh that commissioned it to the docent that teaches visitors in the museum about it. The vocabulary is easy to understand and the add on story will hold the audience’s attention. It is great for students in grades 2-3 as an independent read. It would be fun to read aloud to the class before a museum visit.

Seasons is a book that would be great to discuss in a large group with kindergartners, first or second graders. The book has limited text. On each page there are only one to two words. When learning about the different seasons, the teacher could read aloud the book and ask the students which season each picture and word depict. Many other questions could be posed to the class about the words as well. For example, How are the two words the same?, How are they different?, and, How do the words relate to each other? are all questions that would great discussion starters.

Rukhsana Khan did an excellent job of subtly intertwining cultural differences, sibling rivalry, and forgiveness in her book Big Red Lollipop. The story line is believable and the characters are heartwarming. A great read aloud for 1st and 2nd graders. It would be an age appropriate independent read for this age level as well. My four year old wanted me to read it more than once to him. I will be buying this book for our library!

I loved the side by side comparison of two seemingly very different cultures in the book Mirror by Jeannie Baker. Look closely and you’ll see people in both cultures long for family, love, and purpose. What a great read aloud for 2nd graders and on up to hit home the idea that people are really not that different after all. We may eat different foods, use different means for travel, and live in different types of homes, but we all long to be a part of a community that loves and cares for us.

Our school is known for its environmental education and beautiful setting. There are ponds, wetlands, woods, and even a butterfly garden surrounding our building. Big Belching Bog will make a fun addition to our school library. Many of the creatures and plants mentioned in the book can be found in our school’s back yard. Kids of all ages, in grades K-5, will enjoy the colorful illustrations and facts about bog life. Each year we have a special EE Fest where one whole day is focused on environmental education. I can see the fourth grade teachers incorporating this book into their lessons before going out on the floating dock to explore aquatic life.

All Star! Honus Wagner and the Most Famous Baseball Card Ever by Jane Yolen is an enjoyable baseball story with a good moral too! I am not a big baseball fan and had never heard of Honus Wagner. However, I enjoyed learning about this man’s journey to make it to the big leagues. Students in grades 2-4 would appreciate it as well. I love how toward the end of the book it says, “Clearly he was a great baseball player…. And he did it all without drugs or fancy training programs or million-dollar incentives- just for the pure love of the game.” Now more than ever, we need to let kids know that sports are for fun! So much emphasis is placed on the fact that kids have to be the best of the best, camps are touted and tryouts a must. Kids are losing sight of playing the game for the sure enjoyment of it. This book is a great reminder that if you love something enough it will give you lots of joy!

The combination of nonfiction with a graphic novel is entertaining. Kids in grades 2-4 will enjoy reading Zig and Wikki in Something Ate my Homework by Nadja Spiegelman. Homework is a topic that all students can relate to. Aliens are a popular topic with that age group too. For these reasons, this book has a lot of appeal for reluctant readers. I also like the ideas in the back involving www. I plan to add the link to my library links for kids of all ages to explore.

Black Jack the Ballad of Jack Johnson by Charles R. Smith, JR. demonstrates the power of perseverance and pride. The book also shows the ugliness of prejudice. The story about the world’s first black heavyweight champion will captivate all ages with its flowing verse. I loved the direct quotes sprinkled throughout the ballad as well. This book would be a great addition to our library. It could be read to teach many themes such as: determination, courage, pride, perseverance, oppression, and prejudice.

Pingpong Perry Experiences How a Book is made by Sandy Donovan is a catchy little story that teaches its readers the process of how to publish a book. The alliteration in the book adds to its likability. It would be a perfect read aloud to the 2 or 3rd grade class learning about story writing. I have seen other books try to explain the process and I think this one is my favorite. I especially like its bubble explanations and colorful illustrations.

This fall my 13 year old was required to read Nothing but the Truth by Avi. I decided to read along with him. His perspective at the beginning was very different from mine. It was fun having conversations about the plot, characters, and point of view of David, the main character. This time around I thought I would read one of Avi’s books I hadn’t heard of before. I picked up The Christmas Rat. On the shelf it looked like it might be at a higher third grade reading level and the title intrigued me. What a fun book to recommend to 3-5th graders for independent reading during the Winter Break (or really anytime)! The suspense of wanting to know more about the rat, Anje and what Eric will do next keeps the reader reading. Scholastic has a book guide that poses some fun questions for students to discuss:

Judith Viorst’s Lulu and the Brontosaurus was a fun read. 2nd and 3rd graders would find it to be an enjoyable book to read independently. It would also be suited to read aloud in the 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms. Many themes could be discussed such as: what do we do when we don’t get what we want, dealing with disappointment, and growing up. It is a great book to use when discussing the writing trait, voice, in a story. The author speaks directly to the audience. The third person “voice” is loud and clear. I loved the multiple endings too. Students could vote on their favorite or even write an original ending themselves.

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