Monday, July 14, 2014

Books I Love to Read with 5th Graders (Round 1)

Reading aloud with my 5th graders is definitely my favorite thing to do at school.  I love introducing them to books I loved as a child, and books I've found since then.  I usually don't actually read these books aloud...I use audiobooks and  One of the best DonorsChoose projects I ever did was for a whole bunch of audio books.  Love them!  The narrators (usually) bring the characters to life!  For most of my read alouds, students follow along in a copy of the book while the story is read.  We talk about how this increases their fluency and comprehension, and it really does, especially fluency.  They're hearing correct flow and intonation while seeing the words in the book.  95% of my kids usually follow along, of course, there are a few kids every year that seem to be staring off into space during this, but with gentle reminders, they'll usually focus on book.

Every year, I start out reading "Sideways Stories from Wayside School."  This is a great book that students, especially 5th graders, love.  The narrator of this story is actually the author, Louis Sachar, which is pretty cool.  I alternate between reading this aloud and using my CDs.  Sometimes, Louis Sachar reads it slowly.  There's not much of a plot to this story, but I use it to introduce character traits.  Each chapter is about a different kid in the class, with a few about teachers.  These stories are cute and funny!  My kids talk about things from this book all year long!

My co-teacher always reads "Wait Till Helen Comes" by Mary Downing Hahn.  I'd never read this until last year, but I'm hooked.  5th graders are fascinated with ghost stories, and this is a good, mild, yet intense one.  It also provided one of our best memories of last year when Ms. Dianne, our secretary buzzed the room on the intercom during the climax of the story and EVERYONE in the classroom jumped (and a few even screamed).  Can you say "student engagement?"

"Hatchet" is a must read for every elementary-aged kid.  I consider it a rite of passage.  Seriously.  It's an amazing story, and the narrator is one of my favorites (with Jim Dale, narrator of "Harry Potter" definitely being #1!).  I love that this story starts out with a bang, and hooks the kids by the first few pages.  Even reluctant readers get in to this story!  If you are an elementary/middle school teacher and haven't read this story, you are missing out.  For real...go to the library and check out a copy right now. Now.

"City of Ember" by Jeanne DuPrau may be my top juvenile fiction book of all time.  I love this story and the world created in it.  The story talks about how there is no sky, only black, and only light bulbs to provide light, and I've had kids completely surprised when they find out where Lina, Doon, and Poppy really live.  Other than cheesy chick-lit set on southern beaches, dystopian stories are my favorite, and this one doesn't disappoint.  It's got action and a mystery, and the writing just grabs you.  I seriously love this book.  And so do my kids when we read it.  The only bad part of the narration is when they start to read the letter.  The letter has been chewed up by baby Poppy, and some words and letters are missing.  So the narrator reads it letter by letter and piece of a word by piece of a word.  It drives everyone crazy, and we usually skip it, since everyone has a copy to actually see the letter in the book. *Note: The only additional book in this series I enjoyed was "Diamond of Darkhold."  I was sort of disappointed by the others.

I usually don't have my students fill out big novel packets when we read these books.  I value our discussions and short notes made much more than busy work.  Once, I felt guilty about just letting my students enjoy the books and not do much work with them.  But, then I thought, "How often do I read?  How many times do I stop and summarize a chapter while I'm reading?  Gosh, wouldn't that make reading a wonderful story just plain AWFUL?"  So, that was the end of novel packets for me.  I don't want to teach my students to read just to answer a packet full of questions.  I want them to learn to read for fun.


  1. Love your choices. I don't know Wait Til Helen Comes, but I may have to look for it. My group was the same way this year. They would beg me not to stop reading. I use a mix of Audiobooks, and me reading. Sometimes they follow along, other times they doodle and illustrate. I use to work the books to death. Then had an A-ha moment. I give kids more control and they prove their understanding in other ways.

    1. It's so true! They can prove their understanding without writing paragraphs after each chapter and defining lots of vocabulary words. When reading as a class, we stop all the time to clarify pieces of the story, make predictions, figure out unknown words, talk about characters, and just discuss the story. It's so much more authentic than filling out worksheets!