Share a Story-Shape a Future Discussion Questions

My response to Share a Book-Shape a Future’s question: “Do you have a favorite chapter book for reading with kids of different ages  (e.g., 4, 9, 13)? “

Share a Story - Shape a Future

I have two favorite read-alouds for my sixth-graders.  Two very different read-alouds!

Every year I love sharing Jordan Sonnenblick’s Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie with my classes. It’s an amazing story of of one family’s experience with childhood cancer. Sonnenblick is a former middle school teacher and he captures the middle school voice perfectly. My kids always laugh out loud while we are reading and beg to keep going. They also shed a tear or two when they make connections to their own experiences with cancer. We grow closer as a class while reading Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie. Plus, we always tie it into a a service project for the pediatric cancer ward of the local children’s oncology hospital.

Another favorite read-aloud is The Lightning Thief. Like Sonnenblick, Riordan is a former middle school teacher. The Lightning Thief is laugh-out-loud funny and appeals to girls and boys alike. Without fail, most of my students go on to read the rest of the series. But I am a sneaky teacher, because I love to use The Lightning Thief to expose my students to Greek mythology and critical essays/thoughts on literature. For the past few years I have used essays from Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series to expose my students to critical literary essays. Because they love Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series, they don’t fight me when it comes to the essays. Before they even realize it, they are Greek mythology experts and are able to write their own critical literary responses to novels. (See, I am sneaky!)

Because read-alouds are such an important part of my classroom culture, I could write about this topic for hours. In fact, I had a really hard time deciding on just two books to discuss in this entry. I have a list of 25 books I love to share with my students during read-alouds. Then I have thousands that I love to share during book talks. It’s a never-ending list!

What are some books you love sharing with your children?

Share A Story-Shape a Future: The Nonfiction Book Hook!

Share a Story - Shape a Future

Way back in the summer, when we started planning this year’s Share a Story-Shape a Future Blog Event, we knew that we wanted to spend a day focusing on nonfiction reading.  I immediately volunteered to host today’s event because nonfiction reading has been a personal focus for me this year.  Over the past five years I’ve noticed that my middle schoolers frequently pass over nonfiction books because they tend to see them as “research books” and not something to be read for pleasure.  This year I have made it a goal to include more nonfiction in my classroom and in my booktalks.

It’s working!  I’ve had more students than ever pick up nonfiction books- biographies, memoirs, informational books, literary nonfiction, and everything in between.  Access to nonfiction opens so many doors and today’s posters are here to help us find more doors and windows to open in the house of nonfiction reading with readers of all ages.

The Nonfiction Book Hook


Fiction or Nonfiction Reader at Imagination Soup

There are two kinds of people in this world.  Fiction and non-fiction.

Think about it.  Some of us naturally prefer reading fiction (me) while others naturally prefer non-fiction (husband, eldest daughter).   For those that are naturally inclined to non-fiction, they will read voraciously in that genre without needing much encouragement.   If you’re not a natural in non-fiction, you may need some help to child to engage with and enjoy non-fiction.  Let me give you some ideas.


Hooking Reluctant Middle Grade Readers (You Choose and Wicked History Series) at 26 Letters

Jessica takes a look at two series of nonfiction book that appeal to middle grade readers, especially reluctant nonfiction readers!


In the Classroom: A Smattering of Nonfiction at Educating Alice

A fourth grade teacher, Monica Edinger helps us look at nonfiction and its use in the classroom.


After Little House, what? at Kidlithistory

Melissa takes a look at a few series that are similiar to Little House (based on childhood memories, etc) but occur later in tieme and the different lessons they can teach.


Real World Reading with Preschoolers at Links to Literacy

In a recent Washington Post column, Jay Matthews brought to light the fact that middle and high school reading lists have very little nonfiction on them and that really bothered him.  His column made me think:  what if we began with our youngest learners?  What are some ways we can introduce nonfiction into the lives of preschoolers?


Sharing Nonfiction with New Readers at 5 Great Books-

The wonderful Anastasia Suen is here to help us hook new readers using nonfiction.  It can be intimidating to find good nonfiction that new readers actually want to read, but Anastasia is here to guide us.


Hook, Line, and Sinker: Pairing Nonfiction with Fiction to Reel in Readers at TheReadingZone-

One of the best ways I have managed to “hook” my students on nonfiction is to use their natural curiosity.  Many students have questions after reading a novel of any genre.  Don’t we all?  I know I have been caught more than once googling a topic that intrigued me in a novel.  We need to grab on to our students’ natural curiosity, sink our claws in, and guide them toward answers.  Forget the internet- the answers they seek can be found in nonfiction books!

Everyday Nonfiction Newspaper Reading at Teach Mama-

Newspaper reading can be a really useful–and sneaky!–tool for incorporating nonfiction reading into the lives of our emerging readers. Great idea, Amy!

Nonfiction for Early Readers- What’s a Parent to Do? at Maw Books Blog-

How do parents find nonfiction for early readers?  There are plenty of picture books out there, but how does a parent find a nonfiction book that is interesting, not over their child’s head, and fun?  Natasha shares the four most important thing she has learned.


Hook, Line, and Sinker: Pairing Nonfiction with Fiction to Reel in Readers

One of the best ways I have managed to “hook” my students on nonfiction is to use their natural curiosity.  Many students have questions after reading a novel of any genre.  Don’t we all?  I know I have been caught more than once googling a topic that intrigued me in a novel.  We need to grab on to our students’ natural curiosity, sink our claws in, and guide them toward answers.  Forget the internet- the answers they seek can be found in nonfiction books!

Share a Story - Shape a Future

I have a few favorite go-to pairs of fiction and nonfiction that I use with my students each year.

  • Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson and An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy- Fever 1793 is a hit with my students year in and year out.  Despite the fact that I struggle to get students to read and enjoy historical fiction, Laurie Halse Anderson has this magical ability to draw her readers into any story.  Because I teach in NJ, Fever 1793 always intrigues my students.  They come to me with many questions after reading and I always guide them towards Murphy’s book.  It has just the right amount of gross stuff, medical jargon, and cool facts.
  • The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse and Grayson by Lynne Cox-  Dolphins are the most popular animal in the world.  Ok, that might be an exaggeration but it sure feels like it when you teach middle school.  Any time you ask students to list their favorite animals, dolphins top the list.  It’s not surprise that Hesse’s book about a feral child raised by dolphins is popular with middle schoolers.  What I really love though, is guiding my students towards Lynne Cox’s Grayson.  When Cox was in high school she spent her early morning hours swimming in the Pacific.  It is here that she finds a lost baby gray whale and the most amazing day of her life occurs.  What dolphin-lover hasn’t dreamed of swimming with the giants of the ocean?  Cox actually lived it and still cites it as the most amazing experience of her life.
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater and My Season with Penguins: An Antarctic Journal by Sophie Webb- Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a an absurd tale that my students this year are just eating up.  A few of them read it in fifth grade and have been booktalking it to their current classmates.  Those who already read Atwater’s silly story have been moving towards real life stories of penguins, like My Season with Penguins: An Antarctic Journal.  It’s so much fun to see and hear them learning about penguins while they realize all the myths they thought were true actually aren’t.
  • Shooting the Moon by Francis O’Roark Dowell, Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass with Moon: Science, History, And Mystery andAlmost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream.- Space, space, space!  This year astronomy is a part of the science curriculum, so realistic fiction about space and astronomy has been growing more popular with my kids.  Hence, the nonfiction books about space are also flying off the shelves.
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and Guts by Gary Paulsen- Hatchet is my go-to book for reluctant boy readers.  It never fails to grab at them and make them wish they could survive a plane crash in the wilderness.  Imagine their excitement when I tell them that Gary Paulsen is a read-life adventurer who has actually LIVED many of the stories he writes.  While their jaw is still on the floor, I calmly hand them Guts, the companion to Paulsen’s novel.

These are just a few of the nonfiction/fiction pairs I use with my students.  However, there are hundreds more out there.  Just know that corralling your child’s natural need to know more is a great way to introduce them to nonfiction reading for pleasure.  We want our students to read all genres for fun.  Instead of having them complete test prep pages of “everyday reading” selections, have them make nonfiction part of their everyday reading!

Please share some of your favorite pairs in the comments!

Jumping Off the Page with Social Reading

As a sixth grade teacher, I meet many students who immediately profess their hatred of reading to me on the first day of school.  While I do everything I can to draw a passion for reading out of them, nothing is more powerful than the recommendation of a friend.  Social reading, the act of one person recommending a book to another, has caused books to literally fly off my shelves.  It’s my most powerful secret weapon in the fight against reading hate.

If you take a look at the list of books my students last year thought shouldn’t be missed, you’ll see many books that might not be familiar at first glance. But they are familiar to my students. More than familiar. Each of those books was introduced to the class either by my booktalk, a personal recommendation to a particular student, or when a student found it in the library.  However, the power of recommendations from fellow students was what made  each book a “must read” for the rest of my classes.

So how does a book become a social read?  How do we harness this power and repeat it over and over, year after year?  Back in June, I took a few minutes to look over my classroom surveys and tried to find an example of a social read in my classroom.  One of the most popular student recommended books in my classroom for two years running is the Cirque du Freak series .

I read the first book in Darren Shan’s series a few years ago.  While I enjoyed it, it’s definitely not my kind of book.  (Too much gore and horror!)  However, it’s a great example of the horror genre and I booktalk it every year.  While I may not want to read the whole series, it’s the perfect book for dormant readers, especially boys.

Last year, I booktalked the series to the class as a whole.  One student raised his hand and requested to read my copy.  I handed it over and told him to let me know what he thought after reading it.  A few days later, that former dormant reader was almost done the book and couldn’t stop talking to me about it.  I explained that I didn’t love the book and he asked me why, getting me to  outline why I didn’t enjoy them.  We not only had a great discussion about finding the right book for the right reader, but also about why he loved the book.  Within the week, he had moved onto the second book in the series.  This was a reader who previously met me head-on whenever I tried to recommend a book, circumventing everything I tried.

Over the course of the week, while conferencing about his reading, I noticed a few of my other students leaning closer to us, listening in.  On the Friday of that week, I decided to take a few minutes at the end of a class period to have the students share what they were reading and some brief thoughts, thinking it might spark an interest in a few other students.  I had nothing to lose!  My dormant reader did his own book talk for Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare and man, was he good!  He talked it up way better than I could have, because he genuinely loved the book. Before I could even take out the other copies I had, 5 hands were waving in the air. Students who struggled to find a book, students who abandoned books constantly- all requesting to read Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare.

At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I figured one or two of the students might finish the book, with the others moving on from the book as quickly as they moved on from other books they had attempted.  As it was still early in the year, I didn’t know my readers very well. To my eyes, Darren Shan’s books didn’t seem like the right match for them.  Having nothing to lose and wanting all of my students to try books that they thought they would enjoy, I passed out all of my copies.  The students all settled down that day with their copy of the book and began reading.

I did make one change to our reading time at that point. The boys reading Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare begged to sit near each other during reading time and I let them.  It was the best decision I could have made.  I watched as that group of boys expanded over the year, with new readers entering the fold every week and the original readers staying put, reading the rest of the books in the series.  They would quietly answer each other’s questions, discuss predictions, and jokingly cover their ears if someone who was ahead of them in the series began to talk about a spoiler.  It was amazing to watch.  The best part?  All I did was provide the initial booktalk that hooked ONE dormant reader.  His enthusiasm spread to more readers, and then to more.  It was a domino effect.  He did more than I could have ever done to inspire a passion for reading.

Over the course of the year, Cirque du Freak became a “best-seller” in my classroom.  I give all the credit to the students who spent the whole year talking to each other about their books.  At the end of the year four of my students had finished the entire series, two moved on to reading The Demonata #1: Lord Loss: Book 1 in the Demonata series, and about 10 were at various points in the original series.  Why?  Because I allowed reading the books to be social.  They didn’t talk to each other during independent reading, other than to answer questions quietly, but they did talk about the books constantly.  The students carried their books around all day, competed with each other to see who made the best predictions and who read the series the fastest, and they constantly recommended the series to other students.  While that may seem to go against everything we have been taught about SSR (one of those S’s is supposed to stand for Silent!), but allowing students to share and discuss books meant even more students READ the books!

Social reading is such a powerful concept and one of the best ways to get students to enjoy books and reading.  Howcan we capture that in more classrooms?

  • Start with teachers who are enthusiastic about books!
  • Booktalk, booktalk, booktalk.  Make your students aware of their choices.
  • Allow kids to be passionate about their book choices.  Maybe they don’t choose to read the books you think are “literary” or otherwise worthy, but they are reading.  And those books will be a gateway to more books.
  • Kids are social creatures by nature.  If they are talking about books, encourage it!  Give them an opportunity to talk about their books, but without doing a book report or graded booktalk.  Attaching these social opportunities to a graded assignment makes it a pressure-filled situation for the kids and they won’t enjoy it.  They’ll be too busy worrying about their own grade to listen to what anyone else has to say.
  • Cultivate those scenarios where kids are talking about books.  Whether it’s in the hallways, at lunch, or in your classroom- keep the conversation going!  Don’t talk down to your kids or pass judgement on their reading choices.  Just let them read!
  • Make sure books are available!  If they fall in love with a series, figure out a way to get copies of the books.  Let their parents know what they are reading, have the school librarian order more copies, scour garage sales, etc.  I also have my students make book donations at the end of the year, donating books to the classroom that they no longer need.  Needless to say, I now own more than my fair share of Darren Shan’s books.  ;)  But do everything you can to make books available to your students!  My current students are currently passing around The Lightning Thief.  Everyday another student asks for a copy, so I own 4 copies.  I just placed an order with Scholastic for 5 more copies.  Anything to keep them reading!

Social reading is so very powerful.  It’s also so easy to grow in our classrooms and homes.  Kids are opinionated and they know what they like.  While they love to hear our ideas and recommendations (as long as they believe in us and know we aren’t being fake), they love to hear from their peers even more.

When my students leave my classroom and move on to the middle school they express concern that they won’t have me to rely on anymore for books.  My response?  I’m just a crutch they are used to having.  Most of them are long past the days of relying solely on my booktalks and recommendations to choose their books.  I remind them that they will always be surrounded with peers and friends and classmates.  That’s a huge pool of resources just waiting to be tapped!  As long as everyone does their part, continuing to read and share their books, my students will always have books to read.  It’s a culture- a reading culture- and we need to start cultivating it in our schools!

*A version of this was originally posted over the summer

Share a Story-Shape a Future Literacy Blog Tour- “It Takes a Village to Raise a Reader”

Share a Story Shape a Future is an annual blog tour aimed at promoting literacy, celebrating books, and providing resources for teachers, parents, librarians, and readers. This year the theme is “It Takes a Village to Raise a Reader.”

Please join us March 8th to March 12th as we celebrate literacy!

Each day a different blogger serves as host.  I will be hosting the 3rd day.  We’ve really been working hard on this year’s event, so be sure to check in!

March 8th: The Many Faces of Reading

Host: Terry Doherty at Scrub-A-Dub-Tub

Topics of the day will encompass the relationship aspect of helping children learn to read: parent-child and teacher-parent partnerships, literacy outreach; and libraries, to name a few.

March 9th: Literacy My Way/Literacy Your Way

Host: Susan Stephenson at The Book Chook

Creative literacy in all its forms (writing, art, computers) will be the topic of the day.

March 10th: Just the Facts: The Nonfiction Book Hook

Host: Sarah Mulhern at The Reading Zone

This is the day for exploring the different genres of nonfiction (biography and memoir, science, nature, math, etc), as well as the use (or not) of historical fiction.

March 11th: Reading Through the Ages: Old Faves & New Classics

Host: Donalyn Miller at The Book Whisperer

Bloggers will share thematic book lists that include newer titles and the classics we loved as kids.

March 12th: Reading for the Next Generation

Host: Jen Robinson at Jen Robinson’s Book Page

Join us as we talk about how to approach reading when your interests and your child’s don’t match. It may be that you don’t like to read but your child does, how to raise the reader you’re not, and dealing with the “pressure” of feeling forced to read.

** The Share a Story, Shape a Future logo was created by Elizabeth Dulemba, children’s book author and illustrator, and SaS/SaF contributor.

Share a Story-Shape a Future 2010

Has it really been a year?!  Apparently, it has! The Share a Story-Shape a Future blog tour is coming up again in just a few weeks- March (8-14).  This year’s theme is “It takes a village to raise a reader.”  The tour will last five days and each day will be hosted by a different blog.

Schedule:

Monday,  March 8: The Many Faces of Reading

Hosts: Brian and Steven at Book Dads . Brian, Steven and their guests will be focusing on how we each play a role in helping our children or students learn to read, no matter their age.

Tuesday, March 9: Literacy My Way/Literacy Your Way

Host: Susan Stephenson at The Book Chook. 
Susan and her guests will be sharing creative literacy ideas. Susan will not just be focusing on reading but on all forms of literacy in the 21st Century- writing, art, computers, music.

Wednesday,  March 10: Just the Facts: The Nonfiction Book Hook

Host: Me! at The Reading Zone. 
I will be focusing on promoting nonfiction as a “hook” for engaging readers. Both myself and contributors will talk about using nonfiction with kids and not make it feel like homework!

  We will also talk about historical fiction and pairing it with nonfiction.  I would love to have your post here, too!

Thursday, March 11: Reading Through the Ages: Old Favorites & New Classics

Host: Donalyn Miller at The Book Whisperer.
  Donalyn, the Book Whisperer,  and her guests will look at books for middle grade readers.  She will be recommending “new” classics for the books we loved as children.

Friday, March 12: Reading for the Next Generation

Host: Jen Robinson at Jen Robinson’s Book Page. 
Jen has invited bloggers to answer some of the things parents wrestle with, like “What if I hate to read?” and “Am I at fault if my child hates to read?”  I am really looking forward to this day as Jen has put together a list of awesome contributors across all ages.

But Sarah, how can I help?


You can write a blog post!  Are you interested in participating? We’d love to have you post on one of the above topics!

I am hosting day 3, focusing on nonfiction.   On March 10, I want to be able to link to posts  all over the web and across the blogosphere about using nonfiction with kids of all ages. I’d love to link to your nonfiction reviews, ideas for using nonfiction with different age groups, and anything else you can think of!

If you’d like to contribute a post to day 2, please let me know. You can email me via the Contact Me page here on the blog.  Even if you just have a suggestion for my day, please feel free to email me! We want to include bloggers from all over the blogosphere.  You don’t need to be a “famous” blogger or even an old, established one.  This is a blog tour open to everyone!  Please don’t hesitate to get involved!

New from Aimee Buckner!

Be sure to check out Aimee Buckner’s contribution to the Share a Story – Shape a Future blog tour.  It’s a great read!

Aimee is the author of one of my favorite writing workshop books, Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer’s Notebook. I use it everywhere during our first unit of study. I am especially excited because she is coming out with a new book, Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader’s Notebook. I can’t wait to get my hands on it! And if you check out Aimee’s post above, there is a link to a sneak peek of the book!

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