Ask the Reading Coach: New Year, New Book Recommendations, New Site!

In today's blog, we learn about some new book recommendations for the new year, and add to our current base of fun and creative comprehension tasks to try at home!

Happy New Year, readers!  My hope is for a year filled with promise and possibility for each one of us!

In anticipation of my parent workshop, "Raising a Confident Reader", to be held at 9:30 this Wed., Jan. 9th at the Anne Hutchinson School for the PTA and SEPTA of Eastchester (and anyone else who would like to attend! Please join us!), I would like to share some children's book recommendations and also add a few fun and creative follow-up activities to help build comprehension skills at home.

There are an abundance of magnificent children's books that make my list of favorites every year. Given a range of options, I try and find those true gems that have rich storylines and characters whose lives reflect depth and meaning. The following books are picture books, and geared more for a parent-child shared reading experience.

We've already discussed in previous columns the value and importance of reading aloud to children. The gains from this endeavor are limitless, and include building new vocabulary, providing an opportunity to listen to fluent reading, developing knowledge of story elements, expanding higher order thinking skills, and increasing motivation to read.

When reading aloud to children, it is important to address new vocabulary in ways that support the characters and plot development, while facilitating the learning process. This can be done by a parent or caregiver, pausing to identify new words in the text, and having a brief, yet engaging conversation. Asking questions and involving your child in the discussion is a very positive way to build confidence - as well as vocabulary!

Some children's books that may interest the early elementary set:

"Sky Boys - How They Built the Empire State Building" by Deborah Hopkinson

This delightful source of historical fiction is set in 1931 in NYC, and chronicles the experience of a father and son during the awe-inspiring construction of the Empire State Building. The sweeping illustrations, created by James Ransome, the substantial use of rich, precise language, and the warm, genuine connection between father and son result in an incredible story that kids just can't put down. Follow it up with a trip to the real Empire State Building, and be sure and bring your camera!

"Henry and the Kite Dragon" - by Bruce Edward Hall  

This engaging story, set in Chinatown in the 1920's, with gorgeous illustrations by William Low, deals straightforwardly and honestly with a broad spectrum of various issues, from cultural diversity; respect for elders; wisdom and family history; peaceful, non-violent conflict resolution; and finally, tolerance and acceptance. The story is action-packed, fast-paced, and could easily take place today on any local school yard. See my website for an A to Z list of vocabulary and story elements from "Henry and the Kite Dragon", a favorite for years to come.

(Video of Bruce Edward Hall reading his book should be uploaded to my blog page soon!)

"Mama's Saris" - by Pooja Makhijani

This coming-of-age story follows a young girl as she longs to wear one of her Mama's gorgeous silk, embroidered saris. Elena Gomez creates radiant illustrations that transcend the pages, as we are transported to a world of silk, vibrant colors, and intricate bead work. We experience the yearning to advance one's own position within the family, by proudly wearing a very precious, very symbolic sari. We feel empathy for the main character as she emulates her mother in such pure desire to feel more "grown up" in honor her seventh birthday. There is even a Hindi glossary included. This story, given such classic themes, has universal appeal. Highly recommended!

Finally, "The First Strawberries" is an old favorite! (old for me, anyway!).

This book is a Native American legend from the Cherokee People that deals with conflict resolution in a way that includes and reveres the power of nature. Known for their cultural reverance for the Sun and the Earth, author Joseph Bruchac retells this legend, and addresses a quarrel between a man and a woman in a way that is as compelling as it is true-to-life. The book includes personification, in both the berries and the sun, and represents depth of character within the context of folklore and respect for cultural diversity. Children learn the nuances of love and forgiveness within a relationship. Excellent, watercolor illustrations by Anna Vojtech.

Here are some fun ways to extend these stories at home, and build reading comprehension skills in the process!

  • Write a journal entry from the point of view of a character in the story - parents and caregivers, invite your child to choose one specific event to concentrate on for the content of the journal entry. (This exercise is also known as a "Tableau".)
  • Write a Story Map that sequences the events of the story in 4 parts. (use index cards or a graphic organizer to help kids enjoy the process!)
  • Create a Character Traits Chart for one character from the story - include examples from the text to substantiate each trait. (Aim for 3 to 5 traits)
  • Write an A to Z list to brainstorm vocabulary from events in the story (Then create a fun mini-book and write a sentence for each word. Add illustrations or symbols for each new term!)
  • Create 4 new titles for the story, based on textual evidence. Give a reason for each new title. (build comprehension and retelling skills!)


Enjoy these books and have fun trying out these new comprehension-building tasks! The possibilities are endless. Visit our site to sign up for our new newsletter features, and get new tips each week!

"Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read." ~  Marilyn Jager Adams

Visit us on the web on our new site:  www.confidentreaders.com 

www.readingrockets.org is also a fabulous resources for parents and children!

Happy Reading!




This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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