Sunday, December 6, 2015

Peeking into students' Mock Newbery conversations (ages 9-12)

Our Mock Newbery Book Club discussions have been so thoughtful and interesting that I just have to share them. This year, we've been focusing on the qualities that the Newbery Committee manual instructs members to consider: character, plot, setting, theme and language. We keep a reminder of these qualities up to help guide our conversations. It helps us be more analytical as we talk about what we love about stories. It also helps us compare very different books, thinking about different strengths that each might have.

Last week, Talia and Alessandra (both 5th graders) were talking about Chasing Secrets, by Gennifer Choldenko, and Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan.  My full reviews are here if you'd like to learn more about these terrific novels: Chasing Secrets & Echo.

Talia gushed that Chasing Secrets is The.Best.Book.Ever. I just wish I could have captured the sparkle in her eye when she talked. But then she went on to share why she thought it was so good: the plot kept her interested, full of twists and turns, with lots of unexpected pieces. It was complicated, but it also stayed woven together tightly.

Talia compared this to Echo, which she found too long. She liked Echo, but found it didn't hold her interest as much. I'm not sure if she found it went off on too many tangents, or if she didn't lost the feeling of one set of characters as she got involved in another character's story.

At this point, Alessandra spoke up saying how much she liked Echo. As I asked her why she thought it was so good, she said that it was the same thing that Talia said about Chasing Secrets -- in Alessandra's view, the different pieces of Echo wove together in a very interesting way. She loved how each character reacted in his or her own way to the harmonica, how music gave each of the character's courage and strength, and how much family meant to each of the characters.

Echo isn't part of our formal Mock Newbery selection, in part because it is very long. But my guess is that the Newbery Committee will be talking about it in January -- much in the same manner that our students have been talking about it.

There is a special bond that comes when you've read the same books as your friends and can have these thoughtful discussions. We don't read the same books at the same time. Partly this is because we only have 2 to 4 copies of each book.

I want students' reading to be more organic. I want them to choose what they want to read. Most of all, I want them to share the books they love with their friends, persuading others to read them too. This is what Lucy Caulkins calls spreading "book buzz" and it makes the process much more exciting for kids.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Scholastic and Random House, but we have also purchased additional copies for our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

3 comments:

  1. "I want students' reading to be more organic. I want them to choose what they want to read. Most of all, I want them to share the books they love with their friends, persuading others to read them too." YES!!! Can't tell you how much I love that.

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    1. Thank you, Kary -- it means a lot to me as well.

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  2. I just love the thoughtful way Alessandra and Talia talk about these books. And I love your point about the "special bond" that happens when you read the same books and discuss them with your friends. So true!!

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