I Broke My Trunk! by Mo Willems

            This is a hilarious story about an elephant, Gerald, and his best friend, Piggie. Gerald tells Piggie the crazy story of how he broke his trunk, but it is a very LONG story. Piggie becomes irritated that the story is taking so long, and his frustration makes the story even funnier. The illustrations, content, and humor would be appropriate for all elementary grade levels. The book is written in speech bubbles, much like a comic book, and it would be a perfect read for a struggling or unmotivated reader. This was an easy and fun read! J

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

            This is an unusual tale about Nobody “Bod” Owens, who, as a toddler, witnessed the murder of his parents and siblings by a man named Jack, but managed to escape into a nearby graveyard before Jack murdered him. Bod was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Owens who raised him in the graveyard, but Bod also received much guidance from the supernatural spirits in the graveyard. Bod had many supernatural friends in the graveyard, and they taught him special talents. One of the most important talents Bod was taught was how to “fade.” This was very important because this talent kept Bod safe from Jack, who was still searching for him. As the book developed, we were introduced to several of Bod’s supernatural friends, and we had the opportunity to witness how Bod’s life and experiences were influenced as a result of the people in his life.

As I think about our students, they are just as influenced as Bod, and unfortunately, I believe that adults forget that sometimes. Bod had many people, well spirits, who cared about him and taught him, and our students have many people in their lives who care for them and who teach them. In a perfect world, we would all be teaching the same behaviors, values, and content, but we ALL know that’s not happening. Sadly, teaching that occurs at school is the only teaching that some students get. For example, at lunch, the students will try to lick their food like a dog or eat peas and mashed potatoes with their fingers! And it’s April! This happened just today. I sat there and thought, “What are these parents teaching their kids?” But that’s the problem; some parents aren’t teaching them anything. I thought for a moment and then calmly said, “Boys and girls use a fork to eat their food. So please use yours.” We may only teach our students for one year, but we could greatly influence the lives of our students, just as the spirits influenced and taught Bod. J

I listened to Neil Gaiman read Chapter 1. He read the chapter slow enough so that people could keep up, enunciated his words so that the listener could clearly understand what he said, and read with expression. However, I felt that he looked uncomfortable just standing at the podium, the video was dark, and overall, I would have just preferred to read it myself. This would be a great resource for struggling readers or unmotivated readers. They could follow along with him while he read, and then they could reread the chapter for extra reading practice. I bet students would love this book, and this resource would help to ensure that all students are successful at reading it.

Some books that are similar to The Graveyard Book include:

  • Lewis and Clark… and Jodie, Freddi, and Samantha (Time Warp Trio) by Jon Scieszka
  • City of the Dead (The Haunting of Derek Stone) by Tony Abbott
  • Bayou Dogs by Tony Abbott
  • Evil Star by Anthony Horowitz
  • Nightrise by Anthony Horowitz

Read-Aloud

“Read-aloud is an instructional practice where teachers, parents, and caregivers read texts aloud to children. The reader incorporates variations in pitch, tone, pace, volume, pauses, eye contact, questions and comments to produce a fluent and enjoyable delivery” (Morrison & Wlodarczyk, 2009, p, 111). I absolutely LOVE to read-aloud to my students! At our school, we have an allotted amount of time built into our daily schedule for read-aloud, and I think our students have such an advantage over students who don’t have read-aloud in their daily schedule. Read-aloud is so beneficial! When teachers read to students, they increase student’s understanding and motivation to read, as well as, clarify and build new vocabulary, and model fluency (Ivey, 2003). In Kindergarten, not all students are independent readers yet, so we use read-aloud frequently, usually two to three times per day, at various times. The teacher will read a book she has previously picked out that goes along with our unit of study, or she will read a book that a student suggests. She reads from a range of genre, topics, and materials, and this helps students locate books that meet their interests when they have some free reading time (Ivey, 2003). During and after reading a text, a common strategy that is used to help them engage in text is making connections (Morrison & Wlodarczyk, 2009). Students had to be taught how to make connections by modeling, but now some students can make some really thoughtful connections. Requiring students to engage with text improves comprehension (Morrison & Wlodarczyk, 2009). The research proves that read-aloud is very beneficial for students, so I don’t understand why all schools/teachers don’t implement this practice? It is our job to do what we can to make our students more successful readers, and read-aloud is certainly one step to take in getting them there.

Other than the fact that research proves that read-alouds are beneficial for students, I think I love them so much because that provides us an opportunity to “hook” struggling or unmotivated readers, or allows us to provide clarification as we read text that may be too difficult for students. My nephew is 14 years old and LD, and he reads on a third grade reading level. Last year in one of his classes he must have watched the movie “Old Yeller” because he became obsessed with wanting to read the book. He brought it home from the library, but taking one look at the book (it looked as thick as Wonderstruck) and the text, I knew he couldn’t read the book independently. I was too busy with graduate school and working at the time to take on reading this book, so I told him that we would read it during the summer. So when summer came around, we went to the public library and borrowed Old Yeller. When we got home, I began to read the book aloud, and he listened intently to every word I said. When I began reading, my husband was walking through, not paying a lot of attention, but something that I read must have caught his attention, and he sat down and listened as well. I read as much as I could and then told them we would continue the story tomorrow. As I closed the book, my husband said, “Oh, my! When you read….. it makes the story come alive. Now I understand why kids like for their teachers to read to them.” That day, with an innocent read-aloud, I hooked my husband (a struggling reader who had never completed an entire book) on reading. Every day, Cody and I had to wait on him to get home from work before we could begin reading Old Yeller. After that Daniel started reading for leisure (about fishing, of course!), and he still enjoys for me to read to him. To me, that was a great success story! As I read the Ivey article (2003), it mentioned that out of 1,700 sixth-graders surveyed, a whopping 62% indicated a preference for read-aloud, and it made me think about Daniel’s comment. Most kids enjoy being read aloud to because it does make the more ‘explainable’ and it makes the story come alive. To be honest, I’m surprised this percentage was not higher. I know in our classroom, students ARE most engaged when the teacher is doing read-aloud.

References

Ivey, G. (2003). ‘The teacher makes it more explainable’ and other reasons to read aloud in the intermediate grades. Reading Teacher, 56(8), 812.

Morrison, V., & Wlodarczyk, L. (2009). Revisiting Read-Aloud: Instructional Strategies That Encourage Students’ Engagement With Texts. Reading Teacher, 63(2), 110-118.

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