Teaching difficult novels

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Ideally, students would stop judging books by their covers and at least try to read what they are given.  Yet more often than not, I am faced with the question, “How do I get students to love the amazing books I love, or at least tolerate the books we are assigned since they’re the only […]

“Where do you buy these?”

Barnes and Noble at Cherry Hill, NJ.

Eight years ago, the question shocked me: “Mr. Ribay, where do you buy these?” The student was holding up a book. He had no idea where to buy a book. That was my first year teaching in Camden, NJ and the first time I had ever encountered someone who had to ask this question. But […]

The queen of all biographies

Queen of the Falls

“What?! You can’t stop reading there!” bellowed one of my second graders as I shut our read-aloud book and left the main character, Annie Taylor, sealed in a barrel and about to reach the precipice of Niagara Falls. I smiled at his uncontainable outburst and began soliciting predictions about whether Annie would survive her madcap […]

Email from Laban Carrick Hill

Dave the Potter

After our discussion of Dave the Potter on this blog a few weeks ago, I received an email from Laban Carrick Hill, the book’s author, who had been silently following the discussion. I asked if I could share his thoughts here and he graciously agreed. Here’s his email. I’ve been reading the comments on your […]

Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte's Web

For our very last class, the students are busy finishing up their final projects so I like to lighten the reading load a bit. Charlotte’s Web has been my last class staple for several years, and I call it our dessert book. Of course, most of the students have already read it, but most years […]

Folklore and poetry

Folklore and poetry

For our class on April 3, we are reading four books and one article. I like combining these two genres because both need to be read aloud in order to really appreciate them. Folklore has to have a strong voice, as it comes from an oral tradition where storytellers have individual styles, just as today’s […]

Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile

Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile

There are so many stand-alone folktale picture books that it’s always hard to choose just one for us to read together. But I like this one for its humor, voice, and authenticity. Interestingly, it also represents two story types: noodleheads (heroes or heroins who are a bit scatterbrained) and tricksters (a small person or animal […]

Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal

Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal

One of the fascinating and mysterious things about folklore is that the same story types appear all over the world. Here’s a single picture book that tells a Cinderella-type story as found in several different cultures. I think children would need to first be familiar with a single, cohesive version of this story in order […]

Poetrees

Poetrees

As you know if you’ve read Susan Lempke’s article, there are lots and lots of books with poems about a particular subject — enough to read one every day of the school year. As she says, some work better than others as poems. What do you think of this one? Florian has several volumes of […]

A Kick in the Head

A Kick in the Head

This is one of those books for kids that tends to be an eye-opener for most adults, too. Who knew there were this many poetry forms out there?! Notice how the book could be enjoyed by just reading the poems. OR, if you want to learn more, you can see what the form is and […]