Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thinking about Read Alouds

Someone recently asked me what I'll be reading aloud to my 5th graders this coming school year. I wasn't exactly sure, but that question got me thinking, and I have made a list of possibilities, and the reasons I might choose them. Please check out my list, and then leave your read aloud thinking for this year in the comment section. We'd love to hear from you!

Karen's list of possibilities:

1) City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau -- The movie is coming out this fall, and it would be great to read the book to children so they can experience the story as Jeanne DuPrau meant it to be, before they see it as a movie. Plus, it is also fun to get kids psyched for a movie that originated from a quality children's book.

2) No Talking by Andrew Clements -- The reason to love this book is that Clements really knows how to write books that kids can relate to -- the problems and settings are all ones with which they are familiar. I read this to my class last year, and they loved it!! They had fun trying some of the no talking activities the students in the book experience. The one downside I see to this book is that because Clements is such a commercial name, I might have a lot of students who have already read this book themselves. While I am a huge advocate of re-reads and don't shy away from books that might have been read by a few, when I'm choosing a read aloud, I want to choose a book that most children have not already read themselves.

3) Leepike Ridge by N. D. Wilson -- This book is a great action adventure / survival book. Boy trapped in an underground cave with a dog, water rising in the cave, boy encounters a dead body, boy is saved by a man who has been living underground for quite a while, secret chambers underground, treasure hunters who are bad guys -- what is not to like?!!

4) Kids in 5E & 1 Crazy Year (review) by Virginia Frances Schwartz -- A huge thank you to Bill's sister for sharing this title with him! Anytime a book can talk about the impact of a writing workshop on an entire classroom community, I'm a fan!! I'd love for my students this year to see the correlations between the kids in 5E and themselves.

5) The Gollywhopper Games (review) by Jody Feldman -- What a fun, fun book to share with children! Years ago, I used to love to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my students. They would get lost in the enjoyment of the fantastical world of the Wonka Chocolate Factory. The Gollywhopper Games is just like that, but updated and better. What a fun, entertaining book to read with an entire class! And the challenges throughout the book would be great to try to solve together.

6) The Magic Thief (review) by Sarah Prineas -- While I can't wait to share this new fantasy with my class, I don't think it will be my first read aloud. The second book in this series should be coming out sometime in 2009, so I'd like to time this read aloud for closer to that time. I think many children will be very excited to know they could get their hands on the next book in a timely manner. The Magic Thief is such an accessible fantasy book for children. It has the big book look without all the difficulty of big book fantasy. I really like this book!

7) How to Steal a Dog OR Greetings from Nowhere (review) by Barbara O'Connor -- Here is an author that knows how to write a fabulous book with wonderful characters. I will definitely be reading one of these great books because I want to make sure my students are introduced to this author. I think my kids need to know about an author whose next book is titled The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis!!

8) Along Came Spider (review) by James Preller -- That's right, the same James Preller that wrote the Jigsaw Jones mystery series. Only this time, the mystery is how children that don't fit a "typical" child's profile manage to survive school among some of the cruel children. This book is a fabulous opportunity to talk with kids about differences, and how to celebrate them instead of taunting them.

9) Dog Gone (review) by Cynthia Chapman Willis -- Most kids love animals, and this is the perfect book for them. What do you do when the dog you love may be a dog gone bad, and is starting to kill the neighbors' livestock? What do you do when your mom died six months ago, and you can't accept that fact, and didn't even attend the funeral? The main character in this book has to work through these two problems, as well as some others. I envision great conversations about the line between right and wrong, and why that line can be blurred for some people at times.

10) Love That Dog / Hate That Cat (review) by Sharon Creech -- I've read an ARC of Hate That Cat, and loved it! Reading these two books together could lead to some great discussions about sequels. In additon, both stories are entirely written in verse, which is a new favorite genre for me. Also, the inferring skills that readers have to use to make sense of the text could make for interesting thinking and conversation.

Well, there you have it -- my thinking about possible read alouds as of August 12. I'm going to make a quick disclaimer, and say this list does not include all the many picture books I read to my students for a variety of reasons.

So, what do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Have some other suggestions? Drop us a note, and let us know what you think.

Happy read alouds to all!!


  1. I read No Talking and How to Steal A Dog as read alouds last year. My third graders loved them.

    I steal haven't decided on my first read aloud.

  2. I am reading No Talking right now. It is the type of book I would read first, aloud to the class. It kind of shows the spirit of community and you can do anything you put your mind to. I am undecided as of now, but it is looking more and more like No Talking will be the first book of the year.

  3. Super series of reviews - thanks very much. I'm always on the hunt for great children's books and have recently discovered Bayard and their series of StoryBoxBooks, AdventureBoxBooks and DiscoveryBoxBooks (which is a special Olympic edition) They have work by acclaimed children's books illustrator Helen Oxenbury appearing in the Storybox series for September. In addition to this, they also have some great activities for rainy days:,, Enjoy!

  4. The character in "How to Steal a Dog", Georgina, sounds like a fun character in the story. I'll have to check it out. I'm a dog lover and therefore love dog books. One that I am highly recommending is "Dog Park Diary" by Kim Pearson. This book is unique purely because the stories are told in words and pictures, from a dog's point of view.

  5. I also teach 5th grade and am trying to decide which chapter book to read aloud first! Right now I am trying to choose between Greetings from Nowhere, Along Came Spider, or the Gollywhopper Games. Any thoughts on which of the three I should read aloud first???

  6. My daughter and I listen to audiobooks in the car. The teacher in me hits the pause button often so we can predict what will occur next. It has been a wonderful way to share books together. We just finished listening to Elijah of Buxton. What an amazing story! It makes for a great read aloud, and if you are unsure of the accents, the actor reading the audio book has an amazing voice. I am thrilled that this was the 2008 Newberry Award book. The same author, Christopher Paul Curtis, wrote The Watson's Go to Birmingham and Bud, Not Buddy. Last year my 5th grade class read The Watson's Go to Birmingham and loved it.

    Elijah of Buxton has the same wonderful humor early on, and the deep poignancy and insight towards the end of the book. If you want your students to empathize with the life of a slave, both freeborn and enslaved, read this book!

  7. I am a 5th grade teacher also - last year I read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and was amazed. This first time author, John Boyne, offers a p.o.v. that I had never before considered. The story is told from the perspective of a child, who happens to be the son of a commander of a Nazi concentration camp. The boy's complete lack of awareness, due at first to being self-absorbed and later due to being ignored, allows for one crazy friendship to develop. The ending is UNBELIEVABLE!!! This is an excellent option for read aloud.

    Another favorite of mine is Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen. This story is about a boy and a girl and their unusual friendship. In each chapter the story slowly unfolds, alternating from one main character's perspective to the other. The young adolescent reader becomes acutely aware of the multitude of ways that humans (especially the other gender) errantly assume, infer and misinterpret situations and intentions. The discussions that ensued with my 5th graders after EVERY chapter of Flipped were awe-inspiring. I recommend this book to all young adolescents - as they enter middle school and begin to navigate through new friendships and first crushes and will feel like they are forced to choose between integrity and popularity.

  8. Have you read EDWARD'S EYES? I was fortunate to hear Patricia MacLachlan speak this summer at the TCRWP with Lucy Calkins, where Mrs. MacLachlan signed my copy. This book is difficult to follow at the beginning-but it is PERFECT to talk about questioning strategies with kiddos. The ending will leave you (and your students) bawling unabashedly. Character traits/pressures and empathy for others can also be discussed. I can't say enough about this realistic fiction book!

  9. I am starting the year off with my fifth graders by studying the author Jerry Spinelli. Students were encouraged to read Maniac Magee for summer reading. I am thinking I want to read another of Spinelli's books to start the year off but I am new to this grade and havn't read much by him. I recently bought "EGGS","Stargirl" and "Knots in my Yo-Yo String" which is his autobiography. Would either of these books work better than another for a first year read aloud? If not, do you have any other suggestions by him.

  10. I'm voting for No Talking. I adore some of your other choices -- but for the very first read-aloud I like books that start conversations about community and how we behave in community together. Last year, our fifth grade also tried The Top Ten Ways to Ruin the First Day of Fifth Grade. Silly, silly story, but terrific at opening discussions. Good luck --- Happy reading.

  11. Hi, Karen!
    I was on the web looking for some new ideas for first day and third grade read-alouds and stumbled upon your blog. I still appreciate all of your help getting me started in third grade three years ago. Hope all is well with you and I wish you a great start to the school year.

  12. hi Michelle...

    I read "Stargirl" to my 6th graders, who absolutly loved it! It is a wonderful beginning of year story about accepting each other and their differences. Even better, the book on CD is narrated by John Ritter who does a phenomenal job! I vote for "Stargirl!!"