I am looking for new chapter read alouds for the beginning of the year. I am searching for a book we can read in a week. I am looking for a book that will remind my newly minted third graders of the joys of reading and of what they can do. I know some of them have read off and on over the summer and some of them have not.
I grew up in a lake town. All winter long we skated and went sledding. When May came, we waited for the ice to go out. We waited for the first few warm days and then we’d ride to the town wharf for the first icy plunge. I remember standing there toes curled over the edge, arm arched above my head readying myself for the first deep dive – a little question niggling at the back of my mind, “after all the days, all these months, will I remember how…” Push. Splash. Gasp. Yes! I am looking for the perfect book to dive in together. We’ll go deep and swim back to the surface with the exhilarated feeling of our new reading year begun.
The books should be fun, full adventure, conjure questions and beg us to explore. They should be new to most, if not all, of the readers in our class. And they should open the door to the world of reading for all.
So far I am considering 8 Class Pets +1 Squirrel÷1Dog=CHAOS by Vivian Vande Velde. In it Twitch, the squirrel, lives outside a school. He begins the story by explaining how much fun he has on the jungle gyms people leave in their yards for him often centered around a snack bar. While he’s telling about this new “spinney disc” he loses track of time. He stays out too late and gets chased away by a swooping owl. To escape the owl, Twitch unfortunately scampers across a dog’s nose. The dog takes up the chase. Twitch is desperate to escape he runs into the first place he finds – the open door of the neighboring school. The dog runs in too, just as the custodian puts the ladder away, shuts the door and leaves for the night. Twitch and the dog are locked in and the chase is still on. The classroom pets of the schoolrooms where the action is taking place, tells how the chase is progressing in each chapter – there are eight. It’s really great fun – and both nothing you and imagine, and everything you can predict at the same time. The class will be laughing and shaking their heads in surprise as we reach the end. That’s why I think that might be a good choice.
Emily’s Fortune by Phyllis Naylor Reynolds might also be a good choice. In it Emily, age eight, suddenly finds herself alone save for her turtle Rufus. Emily’s mother had worked for wealthy, Miss Luella Nash. Unfortunately, an untimely carriage accident had left her an orphan. Her neighbors, Mrs. Ready, Mrs. Aim and Mrs. Fire had tried to help. Emily had an aunt by marriage – her father’s sister in-law and she had an uncle – her mother’s brother. Emily didn’t know either of them well, but her memory of Aunt Hilda’ was warm and kind, while her memory of Uncle Victor frightful and fearsome. The neighbor ladies had asked questions, offered advice and in the end had suggested that she go to live with her Aunt Hilda in Redbud. To get there Emily would have to go on a train to Trumpet Junction and from there catch a stage coach the rest of the way. She would be alone – could she do it? Just that would be hard enough, but that is not all Emily has to deal with. She has to keep out of the clutches of Catchum Child- Catching Services. She has to hide from those who would like to kidnap her and from her fierce uncle who has recently become interested in what she can do for him. This book is suspenseful with just the right amount of surprising twists to keep the story moving. The characters are interesting – the kind of people you’d like to spend time with and the writing is fun. You’ll read right up to the end before you discover “what in blinkin’ bloomers Emily is going to do.”
From there I could choose Marty McGuire or White Fur Flying and then I bet we’ll be ready to sink our teeth into a more complex read aloud that really gets us thinking – The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop, The Vengekeep Prophecies, The Golden Door… What would you suggest? What read aloud do you remember most?