Sunday, March 8, 2009


This morning I'm thinking about stepladders. No, not actual stepladders, although those are certainly a constant in this not quite 5 foot woman's life. This morning, I'm thinking about a concept I'm calling BOOK STEPLADDERS. It is, as my friend JoAnn would say, an infant idea, or maybe it's an idea someone else has already been nursing for years, but this morning it's on my thinking radar screen.

I'm thinking of book stepladders as mini-collections of books that help kids step into the big wide world of literacy. For instance, say a reader loves JUNIE B. JONES. I'd like, as a teacher, for her to hang out with Junie B. for a while, but at some point I also want to be ready to help her take one step up as a reader (that phrase doesn't feel quite right to me, it kind of implies a hierarchy of easier and harder books, with harder ones being better, and that's not exactly what I mean, but it's Sunday morning, and church, and the grocery store and housework are screaming my name and I don't have time to play with it). If I were thinking in terms of stepladders, I might offer MOXY MAXWELL, or the CLEMENTINE SERIES, then maybe AMBER BROWN, or RAMONA. After that, I might try to move this reader out into the world of authors, e.g. Barbara O'Connor.

Thinking about some of the other readers in my life: a stepladder might start with CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, but would also include the WIMPY KID series, and Sherman Alexie's DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN. There are probably other steps in there between WIMPY KID and INDIAN, but I have to think about them some more. I envision setting up book stepladders by subject (e.g. books about horses, or genre, or author, or ???).

As someone who loves children's books, and loves to read, I can do some of this without even thinking. I know lots and lots of kids' books, and it's not that hard for me to reach into the book bag in my head, and pull out a book that matches a particular reader with authors and genre I love, e.g. realistic or historical fiction. There are certain other genre, however, fantasy, animal fantasy, or science fiction, that I don't love, and don't read as regularly, where I would have a harder time applying this concept.

I'm also thinking about my colleagues who don't know and love children's literature like I do. How might I organize this information (database?, online?) in ways that would support them? How could I draw on the expertise of my friends in kids' litosphere to create bunches of book stepladders for educators and librarians to use?

I'd love to hear other people's thinking on this topic…


Franki said...

I love this idea and have also been thinking about it for a while too. Moving away from "harder" but broadening their reading. Several bookstores have those signs, "IF You Like...You might like..." I've tried that with lots of success in my classroom and am starting to try it in the library. I did a few booklists for Choice Literacy called If You Like. Finding lists of books that kids might expand to if they are hooked on one book/series. The only thing is that readers are drawn to books for different reasons so the boxes/sets of books might change based on the individual reader. Not sure. Keep us posted on your thinking:-) To me, your idea sounds like a way to build reader taste and reader identity in a smart way.

Laura said...

I love the idea of gathering these "stepladders" together somewhere. Instead of the regular "if you liked Junie B. Jones" booklists, maybe we should try to put together some "Next steps for Junie B. Jones readers" booklists.

Cindy said...

Carol, I just found your blog about a month ago and really enjoy reading it! I appreciate your insight!
This idea of stepladders to other books is very needed. I am an elementary school librarian and I try to get the kids to read other books that are similar to what they are already reading. I don't quite know how to do put together the stepladdars...maybe a database. I have started my own database based on the TEKS in Texas. But, I'm just at the beginning stages of it.
I like Franki's "If you might like..." idea too! Maybe this is a simple way for me to start in my library. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

C. A. T. said...

You might also want to look around on the Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project Website. They have what they call "book ladders" that have the same sort of thinking behind them. Our librarian made her own book ladders as pamphlets that she uses in the library with parents and kids. It's a great idea! Keep us posted with your lists!

Unknown said...

I think you are my very best stepladder!