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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Importance of Lingering Over Chapter Books

I love picture books. You need to know that about me. Yes, I teach sixth grade, and yes, I use novels as the primary vehicle for teaching reading in the classroom. But I love picture books as well, and use them whenever I can for a number of purposes (see my list of thirteen reasons you should be using picture books).

But we as teachers need students to read longer texts as well. Peter Brunn, the Director of Professional Development at the non-profit Developmental Studies Center (DSC) in Oakland, California, makes that point clear in a recent blog post.

He shares that he and his daughter have been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory before bedtime each evening. He doesn't think much about it until she brings up the story at breakfast one morning:
"You know daddy," she said, "he's got to find that ticket."

"Huh?" I said in a groggy, pre-coffee voice. "Why in the world do you think that?"

"I mean," she replied, "What's the point of writing the book if he does not find the ticket? I just wonder how it will happen. Charlie's family does not have money to go and buy more chocolate for him. But he's got to find that ticket. What is he going to do?"

This reminds me of the critical role that reading longer books plays in children's literacy. Over the days we have been reading this book, Karina has been developing her own very particular line of thought about the book. Each chapter tests that theory and adds to or changes it. She knows because of the buildup of the first few chapters, the title, and her experience with other texts that Charlie will somehow find the ticket. What I find important and interesting is how the story lingers in her mind in between readings. As a parent, it is a fantastic way to bring my family closer together at the end of each day. As a teacher, I know that this is critical skill my students need to develop.
Are we as teachers "lingering" with our students? I know of some sixth grade teachers who "cover" (their words, not mine) nine or ten novels in a school year. Really? Along with grammar, mechanics, usage, writing, spelling, tech and current events integration, and vocabulary development you can complete ten novels?

As I've said in my workshops, that approach to reading is like roller skating through the Museum of Modern Art. I guess you see everything, but have you really seen anything at all?

(Although Peter blogs even less frequently than me, you can check him out and give some encouragement).

Image via Old Picture of the Day blog.


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