Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Studying a Book

I'll admit to worrying when young readers are asked to over-analyze literature. 
When I was a school librarian, I loved book discussions and exuberant exchanges of ideas between students. But as far as delving too deeply into theme or word meanings, I admit to being a little on poet Billy Collins's side here.

CLICK HERE if you're not sure what he has to say about that.

But then something happened. Several schools in Washington state adopted the "Read Side by Side" curriculum, which includes my middle-grade novel, GLORY BE. Other places and classes used my books for read-alouds, book groups, and all sorts of discussions.

And I started getting letters from readers. Many asked thoughtful questions. Some were downright funny, in a very good way.

These two are about food.
If they only knew how many references I edited out over the years. 
The writer of the second letter would have really been hungry!

But there are a lot of serious questions, which make me realize my book is helping these young readers navigate new territory. 
This makes me very proud.

Some send illustrations.

And then you get a photo from a class that's read your book. 
Santa could not have brought a better gift.

And another from the letter-writers. (I sent them bookmarks along with my answer.)


In case anybody's still reading (and I know it's a long post), I'm going to quote an email from one teacher who'd used Read Side-by-Side, and my book:

The books that we read throughout the year as part of this curriculum all revolve around the issue of power.  We started the year reading Poppy by Avi, then read The War with Grandpa written by David Kimmel Smith, Martin Luther King, Jr. by Rob Lloyd Jones, your book Glory Be and finally Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.  All of the books are slightly above grade level which is why they are read alouds, but the kids all have their own copies.  During reading time, we stop and take notes about characters and character traits based on evidence from the text and inferences from the text, we make predictions based on evidence, talk about the problems the characters encounter in the book, the setting, and relate the story to outside readings. 

The jump from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” between 2nd and 3rd grades is a big one.  I’ve loved how through this curriculum and fabulous books like yours, my students have learned to love reading and the beautiful subtleties of weaving a wonderful story like Glory Be.  When we read the part about Laura’s sock being found at the public pool, some of the students naturally thought she trashed the locker room.  We went back to our character lists and character traits lists and asked ourselves, “Does what we know about Laura so far support that thought that she trashed the locker room?  If not, how would someone have gotten her sock?”  When we looked back to the kickball scene and reread the part about J.T. nodding to Frankie, it was electric in the classroom!  We all had goosebumps realizing the beauty of that subtle hint and the depth of your writing.

This is why we keep writing, isn't it. 
For that moment one student or a whole classroom might get goosebumps. 
I know the feeling. It's very hard to write those moments. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on writing goosebump moments. 
Or reading them with your students.


Carol Baldwin said...

Congratulations, Augusta. You must be so proud of all these readers!!

Augusta Scattergood said...

Very proud!