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  • Book of the Month – March: James and the Giant Peach

    Author:  Roald Dahl

    Suggested age range(s): Read to students in grades 3-6

    How it builds vocabulary:

    No one is too old to listen to a great story and this one will grab the attention of even the most casual listener, i.e. the kid who’s too cool to listen. I mean whose parents get eaten by “enormous angry rhinoceros” and is forced to live with two hideous aunts who refer to one as “you disgusting little beast?” Poor James lives a truly horrible existence in his aunt’s “queer ramshackle house.” That is until he climbs inside a giant peach, meets a strange collection of insects just his size, and rolls away on a journey of colorful and exciting adventures, escaping his former cruel home. Each page is filled with adjectives and adverbs that not only hold the listeners’ attention, but leave children wanting to hear more.

    Connection to print:

    Many of Dahl’s themes are dark and involve children getting back at adults who behave badly as in “Matilda” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” He also wrote wonderfully wicked short stories for adults. I’m in favor of getting students hooked on reading, especially when it is great, colorful, and engaging literature. The best way to improve anyone’s reading ability is to read. J.K. Rowling did it in the not too distant past with the Henry Potter series. Let’s introduce this generation of readers to Roald Dahl (who proceeded Rowling by over 40 years) and see where it leads

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)
    January 29, 2018

  • Book of the Month – February: Shivering Sheep and Playful Pigs

    Author:  Shari Brand Robertson

    Suggested age range(s): Read to children 8 and under.

    Note: A great book to use with peer "reading buddies." For example, have a fourth-grade student read the book to a student in prekindergarten or kindergarten.

    How it builds vocabulary:

    The story is based on the use of paired words "Mountain sheep. Cave sheep. Wind sheep and Wave sheep." and antonym pairs, "Smelly sheep. Sweet sheep. Messy sheep. Neat sheep." On a second reading, I pause and see if my listeners can supply the correct second word of each pair as I read the first. During later readings, I see if by using the pictures and beginning decoding skills, my listeners can supply both words of the pair as I read aloud the first part of each phrase. No worries about lack of interest during these repeated readings. This story has a surprise ending which seems to charm young listeners no matter how many times they hear it.

    Connection to print: The book includes a set of 12 cards which illustrate six of the seventeen-word pairs in the book. Each card includes the same illustration and same words as used in the story. For example, the card for "messy sheep," pictures a sheep at a school desk covered with used paper and the words "messy sheep" at the bottom of the card. After a reading, I have my listener try to match each card with the picture and text in the story. We've also played "match" games with just the cards, having my listener put the 12 cards into the 6 antonym pairs using the picture and the text on the card. [Note: Thankfully, there is also a small plastic pocket at the back of the book for storing the cards.]

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)
    January 29, 2018

  • Book of the Month – January: Bear Snores On

    Author:  Karma Wilson

    Suggested age range(s): Read to children 5 and under

    Note: A great book to use with peer “reading buddies.” For example, have a fourth-grade student read the book to a student in prekindergarten or kindergarten.

    How it builds vocabulary:

    This delightful little book is chockful of evocative rhyming text that stimulates phonological awareness (the awareness of the sounds of language) which is a crucial building block for learning to read. “The cold winds howl and the night sounds growl. But the bear snores on.” The vivid adjectives and extensive use of synonyms helps build a child’s descriptive vocabulary. “An itty-bitty mouse, pitter-pat, tip-toe, creep-crawls in the cave from the fluff-cold snow.”

    Connection to print: Fluent readers visualize as they read in order to accurately comprehend the setting, characters, action, and progression of a story. Teaching children to form mental pictures as you read aloud helps them develop this important comprehension skill – even before they begin to read. To encourage listeners to visualize, stop and ask questions while reading like, “Where do you think this story is taking place, in the city or in the woods? Do you think it is warm or cold there?” After reading, ask children to try to remember all the animals that came into the bear’s cave.

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)
    January 5, 2018