Well, this September has not been so hot as 2009--although we could have done with less rain! Even though it's been relatively cool, choosing read-alouds for September is always an important task. I want to choose books that are engaging, books that are quick to show their gifts of enjoyment and pleasure. This isn't the time for the subtle and slow books. I have about 15 books behind my desk, all great candidates...but when it comes for the actual read aloud, I think and re-think about my choices. Here are the ones that worked out wonderfully!
Face to Face with Lions
by Derek Joubert and Beverly Joubert
I chose this book to use for modeling thinking about text. The opening section is a gripping personal narrative about an encounter with lions. (I admit that I left out the "mating lions" part as I read it aloud. It worked fine without it.) It was a great choice for this purpose. The text is exciting nonfiction, and it gave us many opportunities for questioning, predicting, and connecting. I also had the opportunity to talk with my reluctant readers about thinking about what's in the text, instead of just looking at the pictures.
Toys Go Out
This book is a gentle story about toys. I love the way that readers are pulled right into the story, wondering along with the toys where they might be going. The writing style is lyrical and rolls right off the tongue, with just enough silliness to keep readers listening. My readers figured that the toys were going to school, which gave us a chance to talk about making inferences and understanding text clues. In the next chapter, the character "Plastic" tries to figure out what she is. The answer is on the cover of the book, but most of my students didn't notice this until the solution is revealed. Then we were able to go back and trace through the clues that added up to Plastic's identity. (I read this aloud to my own two boys--12 and 6--over the summer, and they both listened eagerly and asked me to keep going!)
Dr. Xargle's Book of Earthlets
Get this if you can! It's not currently available to buy new, but it's probably at a local library. I used this one to help students to understand the rubric for the trait of ideas. One of the characteristics of a 6 on the rubric is that the piece of writing helps you think about things in a new way, and goes beyond "common knowledge". Well, the idea of common knowledge is tough for fourth graders. This book was a great tool to use. We talked about babies and what they already know. Then we read this book, which is written from the perspective of an alien professor. Even though we knew a great deal about babies ("I know way too much, especially about diapers," moaned one fourth grader), the details in this book were still fresh and interesting.