Summer is here and that means I can catch up with my kid lit book pile. To start this summer, I picked up a few books that were rereads for me. Rereading is a great activity for readers because it builds fluency and gives the reader a chance to glean more (and different ideas) from a story, and it builds stronger connections. It also has the benefit of helping you get through any book mourning you may experience when you don’t want a special book to end.
Two books that started my summer reading binge are books that have Native American settings, The Birchbark House and Morning Girl. I had not read either book in several years, but one of the reasons I wanted to reread them is because they have characters who make everything they need to live from scratch. I love the scenes in the story where the author describes the procedures for building a house or hunting for food or making clothing. If you like Little House on the Prairie because of the parts where Laura and her family build a cabin or gather maple syrup, you will enjoy these stories too. I should probably focus more on the results of white settlers claiming American Indian land and the destructive impact it had on these groups. The books include recognition of that topic too. I happen to like the parts that show self-reliance the best since the other parts are so sad.
- The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
- Morning Girl by Michael Dorris
- Guests by Michael Dorris
- The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
- Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
- The Talking Earth by Jean Craighead George
- Far North by Will Hobbs
- Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski
- The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
- Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears by Cornelia Cornelissen
- When the Legend Dies by Hal Borland (7th grade+)
- Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen (7th grade+)
- A Man Called Horse by Dorothy M. Johnson (7th grade+)
- The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin
- The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble
- Buffalo Woman by Paul Goble
- The Desert is Theirs by Byrd Baylor
There were many more recommendations on THIS AICL WEBSITE dedicated to American Indians in children’s literature.
For more summer reading ideas, my teacher blogger friend, Amy, has posted a new Hidden Gem book that you might not find on your own. CLICK HERE to read her latest recommendation.
“Writing process” is a big catch phrase in the education world, and students will do everything possible to complete as little of the process as possible. The writing process involves reflecting on your own writing and actually making noticeable changes and improvements.
The Missing Golden Ticket is a book of Roald Dahl writing secrets and includes tidbits about Dahl’s process for writing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It includes a chapter from the Chocolate Factory book that was edited out before publication. Readers get to learn about Dahl’s original story and character ideas, which are very different from the published book. This book is a great option to illustrate an author’s journey through the writing process.
If you love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you might also like these gems:
Floors by Patrick Carman
- Instead of a candy factory, this book is set in a hotel. Each room of the hotel has a different crazy theme. The book also has a duck side story, which made me think of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. I wrote to Mr. Carman, the author inquiring about the ducks, and it is an allusion to the Peabody Hotel.
Candymakers by Wendy Mass
- A group of children are selected to participate in a candy making contest. The book is broken into parts, and the same events are retold in each part of the story but from the point of view of a different character.
The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman
- This book is set in a toy factory, but like Charlie, the kids in the story have to survive the challenges and be the last one standing.
Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
- Using clues from books, people try to be the first to win the scavenger hunt. It is set in San Francisco and mixes whodunnit with literary references.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
- This combines library and literature knowledge into a scavenger hunt. It’s like Book Scavenger meets Gollywhopper Games.
For more Hidden Gem book ideas, CLICK HERE. Some of my teacher blogging friends are sharing more great-but-often-forgotten book titles! To purchase activities related to The Missing Golden Ticket, CLICK HERE.
Even though the end of the school year is nowhere in sight, I am already considering books to teach my students next year. My goal every year is to find high interest books that no student in the class has read– yet. No easy feat. I do reteach favorite books from year to year, but I always rotate one or two out of the line up.
This week, I have been assessing my bookshelf and determining what will stay and what will go next year. The one book that will definitely stay is The Bread Winner by Arvella Whitmore (not to be confused by The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis). I have yet to have a student who has read this book prior to entering my class, but I always have students who come back and tell me it was the best book they read in the fourth grade.
The story takes place during the Great Depression and centers on Sarah Puckett, a girl who won a blue ribbon at the 4-H fair for her homemade bread. Through her creativity and problem solving skills, she starts a bread business out of the house and solves many of her family’s problems. Sarah independently overcomes obstacles, and while she has supportive parents, Sarah is the one who takes action. Since I witness so many students asking for help before even attempting to start something new or unfamiliar, a character like Sarah is a great role model.
Other books that I would consider to be a hidden gem and are possibilities for next year are:
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
- There are many books available right now that feature characters with a learning difference of some kind. One of the hot books this year in teacher circles is Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt; I thought Rain Reign was better. My daughter read it and barely made it through due to the dog situation (tissue alert– nobody dies, but…), so that may bump it off the list. Not that I am against crying in front of my students, but I try to avoid “ugly crying.”
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
- This novel is based on a true story. Children in a Norwegian town smuggle gold away from the Nazis during WWII. I like the fact that I would be able to hunt down the real story with students after finishing the book.
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
- This book has a slower pace and is a little longer, but I love the way the book focuses on a group of school kids who get their community involved in investigating a question about why storks no longer settle in the town. Anything that promotes teamwork and persistance is a great option.
Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey
- I think this may be better suited to 6th graders due to the tiny print in the book and more sophisticated vocabulary, but a loyal dog’s search for his home is usually a winner with all readers. It could definitely be a read aloud with students rather than a novel that is studied as a class.
For more Hidden Gem book ideas, CLICK HERE. Some of my teacher blogging friends are sharing more great-but-often-forgotten book titles!
What started as an “early finisher” activity for students five years ago has turned into one of my signature projects in the fourth grade. Each year, my students prepare a letter to a favorite book author as one of our first writing assignments. They start by hunting down contact information for the author (research skills!). Then, they brainstorm reasons they like a particular author and his/her book(s). We review business letter format, and the students draft a letter to the author. After editing, the students prepare their final draft, and we mail the first wave of letters.
From that first letter drop, we might receive a reply within a few weeks or wait close to nine months to get a reply. After we walk through the process of creating an author letter, students continue to write letters when they have free time. We send and receive letters all year.
I wrote a post a few years ago about this project but since we received our first author reply this afternoon, I got excited and thought I needed to blog about the project again. It is one of the best ways I have found to motivate reading with my students! It is easy to write a book author, but if you want a higher reply success rate, I have some suggestions.
- Newer authors have websites with an e-mail address and are more likely to send a personal reply. We e-mailed Jody Feldman, Jonathan Auxier, Tracy Barrett, Erica Kirov, and a few others. In most cases, we received replies within three days. The replies were unique and specifically responded to the letter written by the students. Some authors even gave new book suggestions, which built excitement among the students to pick up an unfamiliar book.
- Other authors provide a snail mail address on their website. These replies take longer– sometimes up to three months, so be patient. Kate Klise has written us back for the past four year and each letter contains different content.
- Mega authors like J.K. Rowling and Sharon Creech are overloaded with letters and are less likely to reply to fanmail personally. They will send a generic reply if you include a self-addressed stamped envelope with your letter.
- If you can’t find contact information on the author website, locate a mailing address for the author’s publishing company. Mail a letter to the author c/o the publisher. Publishers will forward all mail to the author. We mailed a letter to John Christopher via his publisher. We did not realize that the author had passed away, and his daughter actually replied to our letter several months later!
To download free student materials for this activity from my TpT store, CLICK HERE.
You would think after all of my first days of school that I would not get that sinking feeling in my stomach when it is time to begin the school year again; I should be a first day of school expert. But I get the dark, scary feeling. Every year. My back-to-school-blues started about a week ago when we arrived home from our mini family vacation, and the box with the uniform shirts I had ordered for Mr. Star Wars was on the front porch.
Because so many of us experience the same emotions on the first day of school, there are a lot of good chapter books about starting school. And, it does not matter if you are returning to the same school or starting a new school altogether. We all get nervous. Reading about a character who has the same worries you do helps make the transition to the new classroom a little easier. Is there somebody at your house worried about your first day of school? Try a few of these titles to help ease the anxiety.
- Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
- The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern
- Julia and the Art of Practical Travel by Lesley M. M. Blume (at the end)
- Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume
- Superfudge by Judy Blume (beware the Santa Claus reveal)
- The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (April character)
- Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
- A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
- The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
- Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
- Midnight for Charlie Bone Jenny Nimmo
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
- The 100-Year-Old Secret by Tracy Barrett (Sherlock Files series)
- Spy School by Stuart Gibbs
- The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm (the grandfather)
- Maggie Malone and the Mostly Magical Boots by Jenna McCarthy and Carolyn Evans
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Tarantula Shoes by Tom Birdseye
- The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
- Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (Jessica character)
- Knightly Academy by Violet Haberdasher