First we eat. Then we do everything else.
M. F. K. Fisher
When I was a child and went with my family to the grocery store, we generally filled our cart with more or less the same items. All food groups were covered. There were bananas, apples, and oranges for our fruits. Vegetables were iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and onions. In the meat aisle, we chose ground beef, pork chops, and cut-up chicken fryers. Dairy included whole milk, Kraft American cheese, and a couple tubs of Dannon yogurt. Grains were covered with Kellogg’s corn flakes, Honey-Krust bread, and a few bags of snacks — usually Tostitos or Lay’s classic chips. Zesta saltines had a standing reservation, and the occasional box of Wheat Thins, Triscuits, or Oreos made an appearance. A few cans of Campbell’s soup completed the grocery trip.
Our purchases were simple, predictable, and brand-loyal, and my siblings and I liked it that way. It wasn’t until I left home and met friends who challenged me to try new things, or traveled to places that introduced me to exotic cuisine, that I appreciated the immensely exciting dining choices out there in the world.
My children are exactly the same as we were back then. When we shop, we buy pretty much the same things — we cover all food groups, we make healthy choices, and we don’t waver much from a rotation of simple meals. When we go out to eat, my kids always insist upon one of just three places — a local burger joint, a nearby deli, or the ever-popular Panera. When I challenge my children to try something different, they resist. They are not ready. They prefer safety and predictability at mealtime.
It is the same reason young readers are attracted to books in a series. Series books guarantee a basic, understandable formula of beginning, middle, and end. They offer predictable characters. Young readers like knowing that things will turn out okay in the end. I can appreciate how comforting this is. As a child, I read every single The Baby-Sitters Club; I read all C.W. Anderson’s horse stories; I read each Little House on the Prairie book from Little House in the Big Woods to The First Four Years, over and over again until the edges came off the spines of the books. I did it for same reason I didn’t want anything more fancy than meatloaf or baked chicken on the dinner table. I wasn’t ready to be adventurous in my reading. Yet.
So when children check out their 25th Magic Tree House book, or work their way through each Scientists in the Field text, it’s okay. It’s more than okay, actually. They are still reading and loving it. In fiction texts, they are still learning about character, plot, conflict, and resolution. Nonfiction texts are still teaching them how the world works from the eyes of a scientist or historian. Most importantly, as they master a book series, young readers are growing confident in their ability to work their way through a text and understand it. Later, when they grow older and are ready and more courageous, they’ll delve into different genres and writing styles.They will marvel at all the things out there to read and figure out. They will sit at a friend’s dinner table and fill their plates with wonderful food — and it will be delicious.
This week we take a look at series and chapter books. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jennifer Schwanke is a principal in Dublin, Ohio. She also blogs about her personal pursuits at http://jengoingbig.blogspot.com/.
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Here are two features from the archives on series and chapter books.
Katie DiCesare shares some Series to Model Thinking that she uses with her second graders:
Katie DiCesare’s online course Designing Primary Writing Units with the Common Core in Mind begins on March 1. The ten-day course includes three webcasts, personal response from Katie, a DVD, and many print and video resources. For details on registering, click on the link below:
We’ve compiled a new Pinterest board of series for intermediate students who devour the Magic Tree House and A to Z Mysteries and may be ready for something a little more sophisticated:
If you’re trying to foster a culture of gratitude and optimism in your classroom or school, you’ll love this three-minute video from Bert Jacobs, the founder of the company that makes the “Life Is Good” t-shirts. Jacobs explains why the language shift from “have to” to “get to” can transform thinking:
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Ruth Shagoury writes about The Power of Mystery Series for Teens and Tweens and includes a booklist of her top picks:
Franki Sibberson confers with fourth grader Yuki in this week’s video. Yuki is an avid reader of mystery series, and is ready to move on to ones that are longer and have more complex plots:
Heather Rader begins a new series this week on sentence combining, an alternative to traditional drill and kill grammar instruction:
In a bonus video, Ruth Ayres confers with second grader Max about the drama of losing his dog, and the value of using two-page spreads to tell a story:
New PD2Go: Tony Keefer previews Infinity Ring with his fourth graders, and talks about the value of book talks for building a reading community.
This video and workshop guide fulfill Common Core State Standard ELA-Literacy.RL.4.3: Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).
That’s all for this week!