When we plan for work time, we ask: "What will children do to get smarter tomorrow? What will they read, write, and talk about?"
What will they read that’s worthy of what we’re asking them to do? We need to ensure children’s books will allow them to practice what it is we’re working toward. Some days children’s choices are necessarily guided so they can do the work—if we’re learning about narrative nonfiction, everyone needs to have at least one book of that genre. We gather as many as we can and they make their choices from these.
Teach children to think about these questions when choosing books:
- Does this book look interesting to me? Do I want to read it?
- Can I read most of the words and understand most of the ideas? If I can't, do I have strategies I can use to access this text?
- Do I think it will give me something to think and talk about?
How do kids know if their book will give them something to talk about? Generally, if the book is truly interesting to the child, talking will happen, particularly if we’re modeling it ourselves. We might say things like, “I’ve been reading this book about elephants, and I really want to talk about it. . . . Did you know . . . ?” Or maybe it’s a big idea we can’t figure out, or we have a question about a character. When we do this regularly, children will, too. We’re helping them become aware of their reading, their thinking, and what fascinates them; we’re helping them become interesting people who have interesting things to talk about.
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Debbie Miller is a teacher, author, and literacy consultant. She taught in the Denver Public Schools for thirty years and now works extensively with schools and districts on long-range planning and development of literacy programs. Debbie is the author or co-author of many resources for teachers, including Reading with Meaning, No More Independent Reading Without Support, and the forthcoming What's the Best That Could Happen?
Follow Debbie on Twitter @millerread