When I learn of book awards like NCTE’s Orbis Pictus Award and ALA’s Newbery and Caldecott Medals, immediately my list of books-to-read grows—as if that pile by my bed could get bigger without toppling over and burying me. I begin to anticipate opportunities with these books... maybe I could read this with my granddaughter or maybe I could use this book or part of it with my college freshmen. Maybe this is a book to recommend to one of my two book groups or maybe I could have one of those luscious Sunday afternoon reads of a book just for my pleasure much as Matthew Bucher describes in "The Book Club with Just One Member" (The New York Times,January 23, 2010).
A friend once told me that his younger brother would panic when he didn’t have a song in his head. I feel that way about books. I need to have book words playing around my brain both to anchor and challenge me. I can’t imagine how dreadful it would be not to feel that way, but unfortunately, many of our students have no such kinship with books.
Katie McKnight’s 2008 Annual Convention Session posting and subsequent discussion on the NCTE Ning, “Pedagogical Practices For Teaching The Classics To Struggling Readers,” features several tips and more booklists to help us help struggling readers. And Kylene Beers’ book When Kids Can't Read--What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12 provides a handbook of ideas for reaching those kids without “book words” in their heads. You might want to take the survey Kylene and Robert Probst have just put out for teachers of students grades 4-12 regarding novels for struggling readers. Note that the survey ends January 30.
And, if you’re thinking you’d never use those Orbis Pictus winners in your classroom, think again with the NCTE books The Power of Picture Books: Using Content Area Literature in Middle School and The Best in Children's Nonfiction: Reading, Writing, & Teaching Orbis Pictus Award Books.