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Read Aloud is one of the best times of any school day! And choosing the next read aloud is always so important. I love a great short read aloud, especially early in the school year. I want to build the Read Aloud routine with thinking and talk and I want engagement and access for every single child. I want there to be enough depth for lots of possibilities for talk. I know these first read alouds of the school year will teach me so much about students as readers. This week, I’ll share several of my favorite shorter length read alouds. Short but with depth and complexity for readers in grades 3-6. These writers know middle grade readers well!
I love every book by Pam Muñoz Ryan and I was excited to see this new one-Solimar: The Sword of the Monarchs . There is so much here that makes it a great book for read aloud. It is a fantasy and I think that it provides a great shared experience to understand how fantasy works. It also has a strong femail Latinx character who has lots of decisions to make so there is a lot to talk about there. An added bonus to reading this one aloud is that it might introduce readers to an incredible author whose books they will want to read independently once they know her!
Too Bright to See was a Finalist for the National Book Award AND a Newbery Honor book AND it won the Stonewall Award in 2021. Every sentence of this book is beautiful. This is the story of Bug, who is getting ready to start middle school. Bug is also grieving–Uncle Roderick recently passed away. Bug is working through so much–grief, friendship, gender identity, and a possible ghost in the house. There is so much love and acceptance packed into this short novel. This is a book I can read over and over because of the character, the story and the gorgeous writing. Lots for young readers to talk about and as always, Lukoff addresses issues of young readers brilliantly.
Harbor Me is an incredible book by Jacqueline Woodson. I’ve read this book aloud with fifth graders and the conversations were amazing. The characters and their relationships give readers so much to think about. The title (Harbor Me) and the dedication (For Lena and Alana, who harbor so many. And for my family, who harbors me.) both give middle grade readers a way to think about the meaning of the word harbor and why it is so important to this story. Often the title gives readers a clue into the theme of a book and by pondering Woodson’s meaning of the word harbor in this story and how it relates to these characters, readers can get depth of understanding.
I think it’s important to include fun reads during Read Aloud time. Maya and the Robot by Eve L. Ewing is fun but with plenty to think and talk about. Who doesn’t love a good robot story. There is so much in this story for children to connect to and Maya is a great character. The STEM thread is great as there isn’t a lot of middle grade fiction that explores STEM ideas. I also think the theme is accessible to this age so it makes for great conversation.
I am a big fan of sharing graphic novels as Read Alouds. Projecting the ebook version on the screen is a great way to experience a book as a community. I worry that so many of our students are reading graphic novels quickly without much support in reading them with depth and seeing all that is there. Reading aloud graphic novels can support a better understanding of how to navigate this format. Swim Team is one of my very favorite new middle grade graphic novels. There are great characters and the history of racism related to swimming is embedded in this story. For our readers who see graphic novels as a quick read, this book provides lots of opportunities to stop, think and talk to read with more depth. I hope this author has more books on the way!
I finished Katherine Applegate’s new book, Odder this week. What a gem of a book. The book is written in verse and follows the life a Odder, an otter who lives off the coast of California. I loved every word of this story (and the audio version is also fabulous!) The author’s note is a fabulous piece of this book as readers learn about the true stories behind this work of fiction. Odder is based on some of the otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Katherine Applegate invites readers to learn more. It’s a fascinating story and Odder is a character who will stay with me for a long time. So many of our middle grade readers are fans of The One and Only Ivan and it would be great conversation talking about the ways this author writes stories based on these incredible animals.
This week’s books were linked at Bookelicious and/or Cover to Cover Children’s Bookstore. If you are looking for a fabulous local children’s bookstore to support, Cover to Cover is an amazing one. We are lucky to have them in Central Ohio! If you don’t have an independent children’s bookstore in your town, check out Bookelicious. They are an online independent bookstore for children with an incredible curated collection.