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I have been working through several books this summer to read aloud to my students; books that I’ve never read to them before. I love my old standbys but really wanted to find some books that could strike up some discussion instead of just entertain. I have read twenty-five books and have chosen the top three for the different age groups of first and second grade, third and fourth grade, and fifth and sixth grade. I want to give a synopsis of each book, why I think it would be good as a read aloud and what I hope to accomplish with it. I want to discuss the third and fourth-grade books first since I find these as difficult grade levels to maintain a common thread between the boys and girls through books. The following three books are definitely going to be added to my read aloud collection for this group.
Fish In A Tree, By Linda Mullaly Hunt
This is an absolute must as a read aloud for this age group as everyone will be able to find something to relate to in this book. This book is about a girl who has a learning challenge that hasn’t been taken care of, but tries to cover it up and has been successful until she gets this one teacher who really and truly cares about his students. Instead of making her feel dumb or tearing down her self-esteem like so many teachers and peers have already done, he invests in her and shows her that she has something to offer, even if she struggles with reading and writing.
I feel that this book will definitely open up communication with everyone in class because all kids, especially at these ages, have felt like they have been unsuccessful at something. Many kids have experienced being beaten down or made fun of by peers. The relationships that are formed in this book between the characters are very identifiable with this age population. I really believe it will spark conversations of conflict resolution, allow students to see that they are not alone in situations and will provide some opportunities for students who do have learning challenges to feel a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
The One and Only Ivan, By Katherine Applegate
This is one book that pulls at your heartstrings, as I think it will for this age of kids as well. Ivan is a captive gorilla that has spent his 27 years behind glass in a shopping center. He is used to people watching him, and he has been fine with a couple of other friends and a television. When a baby elephant joins the group, Ivan begins to see what he has missed out on, and what the elephant got to experience and how it was taken away from her. This book is told from Ivan’s point of view and is full of figurative language and reader’s interpretation.
I feel that this book will cause students to really feel how injustice and complacency affects us all and how we can easily succumb to both, especially when we have been told one this and accept it as fact instead of finding the true meaning for ourselves. I think this book will cause children of these ages to reexamine the respect opinions of others.
Wonder, By R. J. Palacio
Wow. This is a book based on a very real topic of special needs kids and how students seem to be uncomfortable around anyone who is ‘outside the box’. August Pullman was born with a facial disfigurement. All he wants is to be accepted and treated like a regular boy. He does all the typical things that boys his age do; he plays Xbox, watches TV shows, has typical feelings of boys his age. He has been homeschooled all of his life because of how the outside world treats him due to his disfigurement. This year is different though. August is headed to public school for fifth grade. Written from the internal dialogue of August, this is one book that will change the way students see each other and themselves. I feel this book will definitely open up the dialogue for students to express their feelings in a safe environment about how special needs children and adults are seen and how they can better interact with them. I also think this is a great springboard for inclusive special needs children to be able to communicate back with mainstream students about how they really do feel without feeling awkward.
There are so many wonderful books available for third and fourth graders. These are just the top-three that I am definitely adding to my read aloud list. To learn about more books for read alouds, please follow us here for more titles!
What books do you read aloud to your students?