When my colleagues and I visit classrooms for the BLAST program, we usually only have about 45 minutes with each group. That’s probably why we always stuck to reading picture books, even with the older 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Which is completely fine! There are a ton of amazing picture books written for the upper elementary audience.
A few years ago one of our teachers suggested that we try throwing a chapter book into the mix. It was a great idea but we had some concerns; how would the kids react if we only read part of the story? Would they finish reading on their own? We decided the best way to find out was by giving it a try.
Here’s what we learned: Reading chapter books together is awesome!
Whether you are a librarian/educator or a parent, don’t be afraid to pull chapter books away from solitary reading and make them a more social experience.
“When I was growing up, I oddly enough looked forward to long car rides with my family while en route to our summer vacation spots. This was thanks to my mother, an avid lover of books, who picked chapter books to read aloud to us on the drive. She would always pick a book that would entertain and interest all 6 of us in some way, which lead to some pretty cool family discussions. While an audio book is always nice for a reader on the road, our version allowed for us to have family time and connect to each other while enjoying a good read.” –Dani, BLAST School Outreach Specialist
With classes or larger groups of kids, you can treat the read aloud as a “teaser” for the book. During BLAST programs, we typically only read 15-30 pages, sometimes starting at the beginning of the book and other times choosing an exciting part further into the story. We pause along the way, asking questions and encouraging open dialog. We always try to end on an especially dramatic part. I’ve been know to add a “duh DUH DUUUUHHHH” before closing the book, to which most classes respond with “Awwwwwwwww.” It’s a sure sign that the kids are hooked and likely to continue reading to find out what happens next.
I’ve included the books that BLAST has used so far. They have all been a huge hit with kids from across the city. I Survived The Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis, Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year by Bill Harley, and Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka are great series (or soon-to-be series) books, allowing kids to continue the story beyond the first book. The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes is a quicker read, but still filled with excitement and friendship. And Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk is so goofy and action-packed our kids have been eating it up!
by Bonny – CLP, BLAST