I joined a group of educators to create a collaborative blog with teaching resources for upper elementary and middle school grades. My first contribution to The Lesson Deli is a list of books with characters who have a physical disability or a learning difference.
It was harder than I thought to create the list. There just aren’t that many books with characters who fall out of the “normal” range of abilities, although, the majority of the books on the list were published in recent years, so characters with a mental or physical disabilities in literature is becoming more common.
I highly recommend Counting by 7s by Sloan, Wonder by Polacio, and The Million Dollar Putt by Gutman. I heard through the grapevine that there is a companion for Wonder called The Julian Chapter available on Kindle. Be on the lookout!
Do you like to read books that have characters with some kind of challenge? These books usually carry over to the sad but good list too, which can be a turn off for some readers who don’t want to cry while reading. Will you read a book that might make you cry?
I received an e-mail last week from a student I taught this past year. She needed help selecting summer reading books from the required summer reading list. The students at my school receive really good summer reading lists, but the lists are big. It can be difficult to select a book when a child has too many choices. How do you narrow down and make good selections when you have many titles from which to choose?
Look for authors on the list that you recognize and see if there are new or different book titles by that same author.
Locate a title on the list that you have already read and really liked. Search that book title on a website like Amazon or Goodreads. These sites offer suggestions or “read-alike” book titles. Check the suggestions against your required list to see if there are any matches.
Often the lists are organized by style or genre. Look for books within the same genre. If your child loves survival books or mysteries or humorous realistic fiction select other books in that same category from the summer reading list.
Bring the reading list to your library or bookstore and ask people there for ideas. E-mail the teacher like my student did and ask if he/she has favorite book recommendations. Ask classmates what they are reading from the list.
Look up titles and check the page count. Start with a shorter book that can be completed quickly. I don’t recommend choosing a book simply because it is the shortest, but if the summer reading list is a little daunting, start with a quick read to get in the groove.
Look at the reading range of the book. Narrow down choices by choosing books at the lower end of a child’s reading range. If you are unsure of your child’s reading range, make a guess based on his or her upcoming grade level. If your child is about to be a 4th grader and was an average reader the previous year, look for books that are intended for 3rd graders or roughly 8 to 10 years old. There are websites that help with book reading ranges if it is not listed on the back cover of the book. Scholastic Book Wizard is easy to use.
Once your child has selected a book, stay involved. Read the first few chapters together. Ask questions about what is happening in the story. Many kids need some monitoring when reading independently to make sure they are grasping key events in the story.
Don’t have a list from your school? You can use some suggestions from the books TheRoomMom’s family is reading this summer.
Mr Star Wars’ Summer Reading Choices (age 12/13)
Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
The Bad Books by Pseudonymous Bosch
Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord
Among the Hidden series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
I attempted to join a virtual book club for upper elementary grades with other teacher bloggers, and we were supposed to read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by the beginning of May. I got distracted by other projects and did not read it until this weekend. I think the book would frustrate many readers today because it is a slower pace with more difficult vocabulary, but I liked it. The language and sentence structure is more sophisticated than books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and it has more substance.
Calpurnia lives in a rural area in Texas and spends much of the book with her grandfather pursuing her interest in nature and Darwin’s theory of evolution. I would classify the book as historical fiction and group it with other books about life on the prairie or frontier. Some of these titles are my favorites from when I was growing up. I read the Little House books repeatedly. I always loved stories where the characters had to grow their own food, build their own homes, and live off the land. When I started building a list of other books that fall in this genre, I realized that the majority have girl main characters– hmmm.
1700s (Settlers and The American Revolution)
The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz
The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
1800s (Westward Expansion)
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Little House on the Prairie series Laura Ingalls Wilder
May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
My Antonia by Willa Cather (middle and high school readers)
Sarah, Plain and Tall series by Patricia MacLachlan
1900s (Mostly Around The Great Depression)
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rowlings
Do you have a favorite read that is this style of book? It is a type of survival book, but the characters usually have resources and family or friends, and they work together to succeed.
A former student recommended I read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein because there is a character in the story who has the same last name I do. It took me a few months to get to it, but I finally read it during my spring break.
This book follows a group of characters who are trapped in a library through a scavenger hunt of library knowledge in order to escape. The book becomes a puzzle for the reader too. It taps into your library skills and background knowledge of classic books. The riddles inserted into the story reminded me of a few other books I read and really liked. I had a starter list of this style of books in my Style-Alike book post, but I thought it was time for a dedicated scavenger-hunt-wrapped-in-a-mystery list.
Most titles on the list have the “riddle” element to them, but I also included classic mystery books like Nancy Drew where characters uncover clues to solve the crime without having to decode a puzzle first to reveal the clue.
The 7th Level by Jody Feldman
Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
Benjamin Pratt & Keepers of the School series by Andrew Clements
Chasing Vermeer (and others) by Blue Balliett
Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord (must be read in order)
Floors series by Patrick Carman
Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman
Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (and The 39 Clues series)
The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
Red Blazer Girls series by Michael D. Beil
The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch
The Sherlock Files series by Tracy Barrett
The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley
The Teddy Bear Habit by James Lincoln Collier (older publication)
Theodore Boone Detective series by John Grisham
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Mysteries are actually a great book style for younger readers (1st through 3rd grade) because students have to maintain plot details from earlier in the book to understand any resolutions that happen later in the book. There are many series for this lower reading level that are popular. Reading multiple books from a series strengthens reading because they typically follow the same plot pattern in each book. This gets repetitive for an adult but actually helps improve reading skills in kids because they can begin to more accurately anticipate what will happen next, which makes the story easier to follow and remember.
The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids by Debbie Dadey and Marcia T. Jones
A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (I like the ones by the original author the best, 1-19)
Mr. Star Wars’ teacher just finished reading The Doll People as a read aloud to his class. Mr. Star Wars promptly checked out the sequel, The Meanest Doll in the World, and read it in one sitting. It reminded me of other miniature world stories that I loved when I was his age. The Borrowers and The Indian in the Cupboard were my favorites. In these books, there are mini characters living in a regular-sized world. I think the technical name for this genre is “enchanted reality” but I might be making that up. I wanted to create a book list of all of the great miniature world books, but it turns out there really are not that many that I have read– or could find. So, I guess it is fitting that I have a miniature list of books.
Awfully Short for the Fourth Grade by Elvira Woodruff
The Borrowers (and sequels) by Mary Norton
Castle in the Attic (and sequels) by Elizabeth Winthrop
The Doll People (and sequels) by Martin and Godwin
The Indian in the Cupboard (and sequels) by Lynne Reid Banks
Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager
The Littles (and sequels) by John Peterson
The Minpins by Roald Dahl
The Wednesday Witch by Ruth Chew (out of print– locate a used copy through Amazon or search your local library)
I considered adding books like The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary and The Rescuers by Margery Sharp because they have small animals doing human things in a regular sized world. I feel that a book like that fits into animal fantasy better. What do you think? What great books would you add to the miniature world list?