Saturday, October 31, 2009


I spend fifty percent of my time working with intermediate grade kids who are still trying to get the hang of reading. The state of Colorado calls them UNSATISFACTORY (a term that NEVER, in my mind, should be applied to a child) or PARTIALLY PROFICIENT, and much of the professional literature calls them struggling readers. A couple of months ago, I read something (and I wish I could remember what) about "developing" readers. That terms seems a lot more positive, a lot more hopeful, and a lot more appropriate, to describe kids who are still working out the reading puzzle.

When I work with developing readers, I have three goals. First, I want to help them develop the heart of a reader- the attitudes and beliefs, that readers carry in their heads, e.g. reading is valuable to me, I am able to read, there are reasons to want to read, reading has value to me. Next, I want to help kids develop the skills and strategies readers need, the phonics and comprehension strategies that will help them make meaning from those funny little black squiggles on the page. Finally, I want kids to develop the voices of readers, to become fluent, to read like people talk.

I put attitudes and beliefs first, because I truly believe that until kids WANT to read, see value in reading, and think they CAN read, not much else is going to happen. With that in mind, I'm always on the lookout for books that kids will WANT to read. I've found a new one this weekend. BUBBLE HOMES AND FISH FARTS, by Fiona Bayrock, and illustrated by Carolyn Conahan, begins with this introduction:
Bubbles are soft and squishy and full of air. They shimmer. They float. And they are very handy. Animals make bubbles, ride bubbles, breathe bubbles, and even live in bubbles. Animals use bubbles in amazing ways.
The remainder of the book is organized into two-page spreads, with each spread focusing on a different way that each of the sixteen featured animals uses bubbles. The section begins with a statement about how the animal uses bubbles, e.g. Bubbles are for fishing (humpback whales), bubbles are for talking (herring), bubbles are for nesting (African gray treefrog), followed by a paragraph of more detailed information. The illustrations are mostly pastel colors, watercolor I think. Each illustration contains a few cartoon bubbles that capture the essence of the text in a fun and different way. An appendix in the back contains more information about each animal, including scientific name, size, habitat, and a few fun facts, as well as a glossary. And don't miss the acknowledgments, with its extensive list of scientists who were consulted for this project!

I can't wait to share this one with my developing readers!


Susan T. said...

I like the term "developing readers," too. I'm a volunteer reading buddy in a first grade class, and I hate to see the packets labelled "BELOW GRADE LEVEL."

Every single first grader I've worked with wants SO MUCH to be a good reader.

Glad you found a book for your friends!

Susan Thomsen
Chicken Spaghetti

Carol H Rasco said...

I love this book; every child to whom I have given it as a gift over recent months has thanked me after reading it without prompting from parents, and the parents have thanked me as well!

Patrick A. Allen said...

Wrote about this one a few weeks ago, it is a gem!

And what a blessing that you've discovered a new gift to share with your learners.

Jone said...

Loved the reciew. I love this book.