My favorite part of today was a conversation about books I had with a fifth grade book club. I’m just starting a cycle with the fifth grade team as they launch a new unit for them, Reading Differently. The unit offers time to practice many of the interpretation skills they learned earlier in the year, while at the same time supports their literary essay study.
Today, the clubs were choosing a reading project-an author, genre, series, or theme study. I was skeptical. It seemed so open ended.
I began by listening into a group seated close to my spot on the rug. They discussed a Rebecca Stead book they read as a club earlier in the fall. “It was so good,” they gushed. One member of the group rattled off other titles by the same author, noting that she wouldn’t mind rereading a few she had already read. They seemed to be on a good path, no need to intervene.
I passed another group already carrying around different titles by Gary Paulson before settling around a table with five boys deep in discussion. “I’m reading I Funny by James Patterson. He also has the Middle School Series. I really love it. Or what about that guy who makes poetry cool?”
“I love books written in prose,”another boy chimed in.
His group just stared at him. “Kwame Alexander?” I offered.
“That’s it!” he exclaimed. “I read Crossover.”
“Isn’t that a sports book?” another boy asked.
“It is…but it’s so much more. It’s about their life.”
I quickly scanned the classroom library looking for some other ideas. “How about this?” I said tossing a copy of Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pikney into the mix. That was about the same the classroom teacher walked by. Catching the author’s name, she went to a bookshelf and came back with multiple copies of The Red Pencil. Together we read the back of the book and discussed the possibility of reading about refugees. I offered up several titles for consideration including Refugee by Alan Gatz, Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban, and connecting back to their class read aloud Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate.
They seemed intrigued.
This class reminded me of the power of choice and the importance of joy in the classroom. These kids are readers. They have ideas and opinions about what they like to read. They come to school every day and are surrounded by beautiful books written by amazing authors that they are excited to read and talk about.
I left this group as they had all made some compromises, hashing out what they were willing to give a try and what was off limits for them. I left with a list of books to look for in the library and a promise to find a way to purchase some of the titles, they were so passionate about, for their classroom library. I was even trying to figure out a way to squeeze in a trip to Barnes and Noble on the way home if I needed to…anything to keep that momentum going.