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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Read-Alouds That Leave a Lasting Imprint

The gift of a favorite teacher reading aloud an unforgettable book is an experience likely to leave a lasting imprint on a student’s heart. For me, it was Ramona the Pest, introduced by my second-grade teacher. I’ll always remember Tammy Burns, the girl in my class who had beautiful ringlets just like Ramona’s classmate Susan. And just like Ramona, I was always tempted to give those curls a good tug to see if they would go “boing.” I was enchanted by Ramona, and wanted to be just as feisty and bold. She quickly became my first “best book friend” and her classic series would make me the voracious reader I am today.

During my three decades as a teacher, I have savored many chapter book read-alouds with my students in upper elementary classrooms. And like teachers everywhere, it is my greatest wish to make a lasting impact on students. I believe sharing the very best of middle grade literature is a sure-fire approach to achieving this goal. The gems on my list of must-have titles possess tremendous potential for entering and remaining in the hearts of teachers and students alike.

Sahara Special  

Sahara Special
written by Esme Raji Codell 
Disney-Hyperion, 2004

Puzzling, Time Travel and World Exploring, Mad Science, Read Aloud, Read Together, Read Alone, Art of Language. Not your typical 5th grade daily schedule, but it is what Sahara gets with Madame Poitier, aka, Miss Pointy. Labeled as an underachiever who actually has serious writing talent that she keeps hidden, Sahara has opted out of special education classes and is instead repeating 5th grade. With help from her eccentric teacher, she finally finds the kind of support and encouragement that might help her overcome her fears, accept herself and embrace her gifts. Share this book to build empathy and bring humor to your read aloud.

Resources

Home of the Brave  

Home of the Brave
written by Katherine Applegate
Square Fish, 2008

A beautiful story of one boy’s struggle to adapt to a new life in Minnesota. Far from his homeland of Sudan and the school experience he had at a refugee camp, this exquisite book is a perfect choice to promote windows and mirrors with students. Written in free verse, readers will be drawn to Kek and his desire to adapt to the frigid Minnesota winter and life in America. He is determined to learn of his mother’s fate as he remains hopeful despite his older brother’s pessimism. Applegate’s descriptive writing, rich with idioms, brings attention to what it’s like to try to make sense of a new surrounding and strange language. Share this book to raise awareness of and appreciation for the refugee experience, making new friends and hanging onto hope when you have little else.

Resources

Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane  

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
written by Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press, 2006

This fantastical adventure features a stuck up, egocentric china rabbit who is transformed through repeated episodes of loss and love as his story spans decades. Although at first meeting, he is a heartless character, Edward’s journey is about recapturing his humility and discovering the true power of love. It all begins with a fall overboard and continues through a series of rescues and abandonments. Edward and his readers will face a wide range of emotions as the tale unfolds across unexpected settings with a unique ensemble of supporting cast members. Share this story to explore multiple perspectives and opportunities for engaging in character analysis. 

Resources

The War That Saved My Life

 

The War That Saved My Life
written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Dial Books, 2015

Winner of numerous awards, including a Newbery Honor, this unforgettable WWII saga tells the story of Ada, a bright but severely neglected nine-year-old girl, living in London. Born with a club foot and unable to walk due to lack of treatment, Ada has been locked in her cruel mother’s shabby second story flat her entire life. When the city’s children are evacuated to the countryside as Hitler’s bombs begin to fall, Ada follows her younger brother and grasps her only chance to escape her dismal existence. TWTSML is the kind of read aloud that captures the listener and holds on tight. Share this historical fiction title to offer students compelling insight into the lives, struggles and hard-won victories of two resilient children and the woman who rescues them.

Resources

Out of My Mind  

Out of My Mind
written by Sharon Draper
Running Press Kids, 2010

Fifth grade, spelling extraordinaire Melody possesses a photographic memory and is likely the brightest student in the entire school. She is funny, feisty and fierce. Yet no one knows any of these things about her because she is trapped and unable to demonstrate any of her talents or traits. Born with cerebral palsy, Melody yearns for the ability to communicate and experience friendships like other kids her age. The arrival of “Elvira” transforms Melody’s life and the world around her. Share this book to delve into the difficult yet necessary topic of bias towards others who are differently-abled.

Resources

The One and Only Ivan  

The One and Only Ivan
written by Katherine Applegate
HarperCollins, 2012

The poignant, inspired by true events, story of the shopping mall gorilla, Ivan. A beautiful blend of friendship and faith, art and humor, is sprinkled throughout the pages of this endearing tale. A favorite Newbery Medal winner, Ivan has found a home in the hearts of readers in thousands of classrooms. A gentle giant, Ivan learns about the essence of life from inside his glass walls during his 27 years of captivity. He finds strength, courage and love among his small but mighty group of mall friends; Julia, the mall custodian’s daughter, Bob, the spirited dog, Stella, the wise, older elephant and Ruby, the newly arrived baby elephant. Share this book to integrate fantasy fiction and non-fiction accounts of the incredible story of Ivan, encouraging research and animal rights advocacy.

Resources

A Long Walk to Water  

A Long Walk to Water 
written by Linda Sue Park
Clarion Books, 2010

Another book based on a true story, this heart-rending story of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” presents the parallel stories of two unforgettable children. Alternating the third person narratives, Park shares the difficult stories of Salva, a Dinka boy escaping the horrors of the Sudanese civil war in 1985 and that of Nya, a member of the Nuer tribe, who devotes the majority of her time to retrieving water for her family in 2008. While both tragic and uplifting, share this book to raise awareness of the struggle for survival due to war and lack of basic natural resources such as water.  

Resources

Hello, Universe  

Hello, Universe
written by Erin Entrada Kelly
Greenwillow Books, 2017

Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

The 2018 winner of the Newbery Award, this enchanting story is sure to become an all-time favorite. The story of survival in both small and very big ways is woven together from the very different life experiences of four misfits – a bully, a psychic, a deaf girl and a shy but kind boy. The universe works in mysterious and sometimes epic ways as this charming tale of friendship and courage will attest. Share this book to launch a unit about family stories, understanding and standing up to bullying, how various cultures are represented in literature or the idea of fate versus free will.

Resources

Ms. Bixby's Last Day  

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day
written by John David Anderson
Walden Pond Press, 2016

Three sixth grade boys with nothing much in common other than a shared outcast status and an affinity for their beloved Mrs. B, hatch a plan to deliver “the perfect last day”.  As teachers go, Ms. Bixby is “one of the good ones”, a teacher who understands the importance of relationships, respect and recognizing special qualities in each and every student. When she suddenly takes a medical leave to deal with a serious illness, the boys embark on a comical and at times heartbreaking quest to see her at least one more time.  Filled with a perfect mix of hard truths and much needed humor, this adventure will keep listeners begging for just one more page. Share this book as a perfect end-of-the-year selection that leads to an emotional and memorable conclusion!

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2 Responses to Read-Alouds That Leave a Lasting Imprint

  1. David LaRochelle May 18, 2018 at 12:12 pm #

    What wonderful book recommendations, Maurna! And you are so right about the lasting impact a book read aloud to a class can have. Back when I was a classroom teacher, one of my favorite read alouds was “Dear Mr. Henshaw,” also by Beverly Cleary. Not only did the author perfectly capture the feelings of an “average” boy dealing with his parents’ divorce, but she also shows how a few small acts of kindness (on the part of Boyd Henshaw) can have a profound impact on a child’s life.

  2. maurna rome May 20, 2018 at 7:39 pm #

    Thank you, David! I just recently reread “Dear Mr. Henshaw” and agree completely about how perfectly Beverly Cleary captured the emotions of Leigh. I also enjoyed the subtle humor and many bittersweet moments in the book. I’ve never read it aloud but I think I’ll be adding it to my list of future read aloud! I appreciate you sharing your memories!

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