An Educator's Life to talk about one of my favorite things to do with my students: Read Aloud!
Before I tell you my favorite books, you need to know that I teach three Reading classes. And I never read the same book to each class. What's the point of that? Reading different books means that: 1) I always remember where we stopped because there's only one sticky note. 2) I don't forget what we talked about because I didn't have three conversations about the same point. If students are SOOOO into a book that they don't want me to stop reading, they tell other students about it. And then those kids want to read the book, or have me read it to them. Can you say WIN-WIN?
Here are some of the books I've enjoyed reading this year.
This is an amazing book to read aloud. It tells the story of a young boy growing up in a big family in rural Alabama in 1917. He learns that a new postmaster is coming to town with a boy his age, and he can't wait. When the family arrives, they are African-American, and the boy he expected turns out a be a girl. A rather prissy girl. And he has to be nice to her. Over the course of the book, these two unlikely kids discover strengths in each other that they needed themselves, and they not only become best friends, but co-conspirators in helping someone else out. The backdrop for the story is a segregated South, and this book will generate lots and lots of good discussion. Students always tell me that this is one of their favorite books. You should know that the word "nigger" is used several times. I don't sugarcoat it, and we talk about language that's used hatefully. Good, thoughtful discussions around the prejudice in this book and in the world around us are a wonderful by-product of this book.
Another powerful read is Out of My Mind. Told in first person, Melody is a young girl with cerebral palsy. She can't talk, she can't walk, and she can only use her thumbs to hold onto things. So everyone assumes that she doesn't know much. Except she does. She has a photographic memory. The story of this young girl's coming into her own is one that will have your students cheering her on. The really cool thing Sharon Draper does is make Melody and her classmates completely real. Her classmates are awkward around her and not always nice. As Melody finds her voice, she becomes someone your students will fall in love with. And you'll find them making all kinds of connections to the way they treat physically disabled kids in school. They become kinder and more understanding. Students don't want this book to end and neither will you!
Gary Paulsen has a great way with words, and in his language is colorful and rich. I had a group of weaker readers try this book because I thought the adventure would reel them in. They found it hard and that had a huge impact on their comprehension. When I would read a section aloud to them, their eyes would light up with new-found understanding. So I'm thinking I may use it next year as a read-aloud. This is the story of Brian, on his way from New York where he lives with his mother to Alaska, where he'll spend the summer with his dad. On board a small plane, in the middle of the flight over the forests of Canada, his pilot has a heart attack. Brian crash lands the plane, and then has to figure out how to survive. In the wilderness with nothing but the hatchet his mother gave him. Rich descriptions! Bring some sticks to class. You'll have students tell you how to make a fire by rubbing two sticks together. Let them try (they'll be amazed that you're letting them do this in school!)
I'll stop here, although there are many more great books out there. What books do you read with your students?