Right now with my little reading group, it is all about adopting their new personas as competent, eager and avid Grade 2 readers. This is serious business because in Grade 1, the picture book was it. And the picture book is still “it,” highly valued in our reading world but we are beginning to branch out. We are exploring non-fiction texts and recognizing that not only do we find answers to questions we have about the world, we also think up more questions for future reading. We are enjoying comics and graphic novels. We are also finding our way around the chapter book. Recognizing that chapter books can range from illustrated early readers (think the Mercy Watson series) to longer more complex novels (like Magic Tree House Merlin Missions) helps us understand that we can approach chapter books anywhere on the continuum.
How are we getting to know chapter books? It’s basically a “Meet and Greet” book sharing circle concept.
I preselect a number of early chapter books that students may or may not know but that will be in the range of appropriate reading and interest levels for the group. This week we looked at a number of books including some Mr. Putter and Tabby titles, Joe and Sparky books, Usborne Young Reading stories (fables, fairytales, etc) the Jack Stalwart series, some Cam Jansen mysteries and some of the Sophie titles written by Lara Bergen.
The students receive three or four books at a time and have two minutes to peruse them. We then pass them on to the next person and receive some new titles to look at. Before we begin the book passing, we discuss how to determine if a book is right for us. We talked about:
- Is the cover appealing?
- Do we know the author or illustrator and like his/her style?
- After reading the summary on the back or inside flap, are we intrigued?
- When we flip through the book, does it look good? This is where we need to look at illustrations, chapter length, read a paragraph and see if the reading level seems like a match, etc.
- Is it part of a series I have read before and liked?
- Is someone in the class recommending it to me?
Some students took this advice to heart and carefully skimmed each book. Others began by eliminating books from a mental “I would read this” list strictly by looking at the covers. “Nope. Nope. Nope. And nope.” I circulated and worked individually with these students. Often I just had to read the back cover and a “definitive nope” changed into a “possible maybe.” I would also read certain passages that were either funny, full of adventure or ended in a cliffhanger to pique interest. It gave me a chance to talk to students about their perceived “boy vs. girl” books. Yes, boys read books with main characters that are girls. Yes, girls are interested in spy books with boy main characters. No, pink on the cover does not mean only girls will like it. These are such important conversations. Books need to feel full of possibilities. The last thing I want is students who are making a limited reading “box” for themselves in terms of book choice at such a young age.
After we had looked at all of the books, we spread the books out in the centre of the circle, grabbed our reading notebooks and noted down three titles that we might want to read in the future. And then it was off to do some quiet reading! We will do these sharing book circles often over the course of the year and students can add to their “want to read” lists. These lists are extremely helpful to refer to when choosing a new book to read.
How do you introduce new books in your primary classroom? Please share!