Thursday, June 15, 2017

Matching Kids to Books (Putting the Brakes on Summer Slide, Part 3)

That, right up there in the title, is what I think of as my job description.  There's more to it--like teaching them transferable academic skills--but the piece I'm passionate about is putting the right book into the hands of the right student.

So when I started thinking about combatting summer slide, the idea of sending each kid home with a book chosen specifically for them made my mind start buzzing with ideas.  I spent all spring collecting books, hampered by my inability to afford a new hardcover release for each kid.  I had to be a little more creative, seeing what I found that I knew was good, and then figuring out who would like it most.  In some cases I had a general idea, e.g. "fantasy graphic novel" and looked until I found something that fit the bill.  And in a few cases there was One Book I wanted to get a kid, and I was able to find an affordable copy.

Today was the day of unwrapping.  I hadn't told the kids what I was doing, so when I started pulling butcher-paper encased rectangles out of a box and calling out names, there was confusion and excitement.

For me?

Oh, it's a book.  Is yours a book too?

Oh, they're ALL books.  Did we all get the same book?

Wait, do we get to keep these?

As each class worked out what was happening, there were laughter and thank you's.  I'd actually forgotten most of what I'd picked out, so it was fun to see kids discover what I'd chosen.  And it was absolutely fulfilling to see kids realize I'd picked a book FOR THEM.

For my Twilight fan who was intimidated by the novel--a graphic novel version.  She almost cried.

For the kid who only liked one book all year--its sequel.  He held it up to me, wordlessly beaming.

For my Disney fan--a fairy tale mash-up.  "Did you know what it's about?" she gasped in wonder.

For my lowest reader--Spy Vs. Spy.  He was jokingly complaining about me giving him a book, but as he flipped through it, his jaw dropped, and he started grinning.  "You got me a book WITHOUT WORDS?!? And it's FUNNY?!?"

I could tell how seen they felt.  They could tell how much I value them continuing to read this summer.  And I don't mean to write this post as "Oh look at me, I'm so nice I gave my students books." I just wanted to be able to share how much FUN it was to see their wonder and delight at getting a book picked just for them.   It's enormously satisfying to know I got it right for many of them.


Please share your thoughts. Comments are almost as sweet as chocolate!