I have started a new collaboration with my students. They are recommending books for me to read and I am kind of getting into it. This collaboration began with Isaac told me, “I read the Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan and it changed my life as a reader forever. Interesting. I had to read a book that would change a fifth grader’s life as a reader forever. So, I said, “Go check it out of the library in my name.” Little did I know that it was 500+ pages. But it was interesting. It taught a lot about Egyptian mythology. Even though I am not particularly a cat person, I enjoyed Bast, the Goddess of Cats the best. This genre is not my favorite, but the book held my interest and I did become exposed to several Egyptian Gods and Goddesses along the way. What was the coolest was the dialogue with Isaac: “Mr. Pinto, how far are you in the book?” “Do you like it?” “Isaac, I’m at this point in the book. This character is kind of creepy.” Riordan has written several more books. My goal is not to read the entire series, but to get a flavor. These students would not have been exposed to this information most likely had it not been for the book.
Next, it was Drew’s turn. He recommended The Lightning Thief again by Rick Riordan. This is the first in the Percy Jackson series and deals with Greek Gods and Goddesses. Again, this is not my favorite genre, but I have enjoyed the dialogue. What I am amazed with has been how engrossed the students are in the characters and how much they know plot lines. Drew was no different. He seemed genuinely excited by my progress through the book. He also was a walking encyclopedia of Greek Mythology knowledge. Fascinating to me. I finished this book and again enjoyed my time with the book and with Drew.
Next, 39 Clues by Rick Riordan, was the referral by Josh. Are you noticing a theme? Lots of Rick Riordan. This time, the book I read took me with the characters to Russia where I learned about Rasputin and some Russian history. Josh again asked me for my progress and again filled in some clues along the way. I finished this book this morning.
Carson gets a crack at me next; then Evan; then Sarah. I am hoping that a non-Rick Riordan book appears at some point. But I have some great take-aways from these books. First, I read only the books I have not read before. So if someone suggests a book that I have read, I said, “Nope, give me another book or another series.” This I hope branches student thinking, but also forces me to read something new and different. Second, students try to find books that I might like but I also get a feel about what interests them. And, it keeps me present and up with what is popular and what is hot in the world of my elementary readers. Also, it has increased my dialogue with students on an academic front in a way similar to how I would converse with an adult who I offer a book and say, “I think you will enjoy this book.” Finally, this interaction has opened another gate. I am now referring books to students to read. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick is making its rounds through the fourth and fifth grade. My question, “Do you like it better than Hugo Cabret? If so, why?”
I have always said that one of the highest compliment I can offer someone is to offer them a book and say, “I think you will like this.” It is nice to have this interaction with students. I have learned a lot. And, it is interesting that the books I have read so far are teaching students a lot without them even realizing it.