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jorgefuriouso 10-19-2006 06:05 PM

Wisdom Books
I truly believe that Picture Books are an excellent model for fourth grade writers, and that many fourth graders can benefit from the extremely compact yet precise language. In order to convince students' parents of this, I included the following blurb on my web page (I apologize for the lack of formatting):

Wisdom Books

No matter what type of reader students may be, I recommend that they continue to read picture books in the Fourth Grade. Picture books are simply books that are not divided into chapters and contain more illustrations than your typical chapter books. The fact is, picture books often contain more complex sentence structure, vocabulary, and themes than many “dumbed down” chapter books. To dignify these types of books for fourth graders, I prefer to call them “Wisdom Books.”

Wisdom books are simply picture books whose themes and narratives illustrate the life skills, character traits, and attitudes which we want our own children to embrace. Universal traits such as patience, empathy, teamwork, cooperation, forgiveness, fairness, and responsibility are often praised, but how often are they modeled for students? Certain picture books capture one or more of these (and other) ideal traits in just sixteen or twenty-four pages, creating a memorable model for children who still think and generalize in very concrete terms. I recommend that fourth graders partake of at least one wisdom book every day.

I also recommend Wisdom Books for the following reasons:

Wisdom Books are nonthreatening. For some reluctant readers, the thought of slogging through a 200 page chapter book is daunting; shorter, simpler picture books offer reading in more digestible portions.

Wisdom Books are extremely focused. Some readers are put off by multiple plots, or lose the focus of the book if it’s too long. By its very design, a picture book must cut to the chase immediately.

Wisdom Books provide excellent writing models. When we ask fourth graders to “write a story,” we don’t mean a story with chapters, and certainly not a Stephen King-length novel. So why do we have students read only those type of books? Picture books provide models of ideal length and conciseness for fourth grade writing.

Wisdom Books activate thinking on a visual level. Since illustrations are so often tied into the meaning of a picture book, students are required to shift their comprehension from text to picture, and often the most clever picture books will provide illustrations that actually change the meaning of the text alone.

Wisdom Books can be used as a shared reading event for the whole family. Every good picture book can be enjoyed on multiple levels. Picture books provide a great chance for every kid in the family to hop onto the same bed and enjoy a great story just before bedtime.

Wisdom Books can build reading comprehension. Since Wisdom Books use story elements (plot, character, setting, conflict) so well, a steady diet of picture books will increase your child’s reading comprehension, no matter what their present stage. And consider this: are the reading passages on standardized tests in chapter form, or are they shorter passages?

Wisdom Books can create a fantastic dialogue between you and your child. As a parent I often get frustrated when my daughter can’t or won’t share what took place in school each day. But a good picture book before bedtime somehow sparks her memory, and she recalls something that took place that day or that week (or possibly, she’s stalling the inevitable bedtime). Either way, a dialogue is formed.

Your child can, of course, read Wisdom Books on his/her own. But you may want to consider making it a family event right before bedtime. It is amazing how much faster showers get taken, pajamas get put on, and teeth get brushed if there is a deadline for the Bedtime Story!

When sharing a wisdom book, be yourself. Get into it. If you need some pointers, I would suggest the following:

Begin by asking for predictions: Look at the cover of this book. What do you think it will be about? Could this really happen, or is it make-believe? What do you call a book that is make-believe?

Read the book aloud, dramatically! I really suggest you preread the book, so that you can read aloud with dramatic emphasis, and also so you’ll know where to stop for discussion or further predictions.

Discuss the book or its individual parts: What would you have done if you were? What was your favorite part? Did something like that ever happen to you? What do you think will happen next? What can we learn from this story?

And absolutely, whenever there is interest, read the same story again the following evening. Repeated rereadings will increase comprehension plus give rise to new realizations about the author’s craft and theme.

I will be reading Wisdom Books often in class, typically tying them into the curriculum or to current events. To help you get started at home, however, I have compiled a short list of Wisdom Books which you can find at the local library or bookstore. I also suggest you ask the children’s librarian for recommendations as excellent books are published monthly. I have also provided a list of universal Themes in Literature. These are the “wisdoms” or “truths” which surface in many good picture books.

If you’ve ever wondered

How can I get my child to read more?
How can I help my child improve their reading?
How can I get this kid to talk to me?
How can I get them to bed with less drama?
then here’s your answer. Stick with it, give it time. It will be worth your efforts. Start tonight to create a literary legacy for your children.

Chris G 10-20-2006 04:51 AM

Thanks for posting.

And what about the art? Some picture books have some of the most beautiful art that I've ever seen! For me, this is no small matter. Even more reason to read 'em!

BookMuncher 10-23-2006 04:22 PM

That is a GREAT piece of writing! Thanks for sharing! I also sent home a note to my parents about why chapter books (not all, but many popular ones) are easier.

Chapter books:
- have a controlled vocabulary in which the author is working
- have predictable characters, plot structure, and settings
- offer more support than picture books because readers develop a "schema" for how books from a certain series will go

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