So I was inspired to write this post about chapter books I read aloud to my second graders.
This year I carved a chunk of time at the end of my day for reading chapter books to my class. Each year I tell myself I am going to read more chapter books, but each year my day gets fuller and fuller and I cut out that chapter book time. But not this year! (so far)
I am sure I don't have to extol the benefits of reading chapter books, but I will tell you what I notice about it's value in my classroom. My second graders' attention span and listening ability is not very long. Most of them have a hard time sitting still and listening to a read aloud for more than 10 minutes. Their independent reading stamina is very low also. Read alouds give them opportunity to build listening stamina and attention span, which usually helps in the independent reading department too. Chapter books don't have pictures, which means my students can't rely on any visual clues to understand the story. They must develop their own visual story in their mind. This is an important strategy when reading independently as well. Chapter books allow me to introduce more complex vocabulary and story plots that most second graders couldn't understand or enjoy alone. And my students get practice sustaining their understanding and concentration over a week or two of reading the same book. But here's the most important benefits of my chapter book read alouds. It is a favorite time of the day for my students and it builds community! Everyone comes to the carpet and settles into a comfortable place. They like to bring their clipboard so they can jot down important ideas to discuss! I love hearing them talk about the book as they walk over to the carpet. They talk about the characters like they are friends. They discuss their predictions, they help each other remember what happened in the last chapter, they debate over details they disagree on, and they even wonder what the characters might be doing after the book is finished. All of this conversation generally does not include me - it is casual and among peers. It is book talk and it is wonderful.
So, here's the chapter books I have read so far this year.
The One and Only Stuey Lewis (Stories from the Second Grade) by Jane Schoenberg was our first read aloud of the year. Each chapter was a separate story and problem for the main character, Stuey. The problems are realistic and my second graders could really relate to Stuey. This book is also a great fit for practicing making and checking predictions, and teaching about story elements. The author's website has a book trailer that you can watch. A second book about Stuey is due out in the spring. It is called Stuey Lewis Against All Odds (Stories from the Third Grade). Most of my students will be able to read this book independently by the spring. So, I need to remember to add this book to my library!
My students fell in love with the characters in Toys Go out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgable Stingray, A Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic by Emily Jenkins. This book is a collection of stories, or adventures, about the main characters which are toys that belong to a little girl. The story is told from their perspective. My students immediately made connections to the Toy Story movies. Each toy has their own identity and characteristics which my students talked about a lot! This a great read aloud because it offers many opportunities for higher level discussions. The author doesn't always tell you how the characters are feeling or why the character does something, so the reader needs to infer a lot. I heard my students talking about the characters throughout the day, which made me so happy. Emily Jenkins has also written two other books in the series, but I have not read them yet. My students loved this book so much that I sent an email to Emily Jenkins asking if she would skype with our class. But she does not skype.
We just finished Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen. This is the story of Molly, an immigrant from Russia, who is finding it difficult to fit in at school because the children are mean and tease her. Of course my students are upset and shocked at the way students are teasing Molly. This they can relate to! This was a great read aloud because my students had so many questions after each reading and it allowed us to go back and reread sections that they were confused about. There were even some questions that the book couldn't answer - which was great because it gave me the opportunity to provide a bit of history for them. It also gave us a chance to expand our understanding of the word pilgrim.
After the Christmas vacation I will begin one of my favorite read alouds, Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant. If you loved Charlotte's Web you will love this book about friendship. This story takes place during an unexpected spring blizzard. We had an unusual amount of snowstorms here on Long Island last year, so while I was reading the book we felt like we were experiencing the same storm!
Now I am starting to collect some other titles for my chapter book read aloud time. Here are future books I am considering.
What do you think? Do you have some titles you think would be great for second grade?