Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Hameray's Middle School Level Books

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Jun 1, 2017 2:12:00 PM

Reluctant readers exist at every grade level, from kindergarten to twelfth grade. While they are plenty of lower-leveled guided reading books in the educational market, it can be difficult to find higher-leveled books. This problem is especially difficult for middle school English teachers, where the school literacy program may not be as robust as their elementary school counterparts.

Hameray offers leveled books from Guided Reading Level A through Y. The two highest-level book series are the Download Series and the Extraordinary Files—together, they make a great combination of nonfiction and fiction books for your classroom! Best of all, every book in the series is clearly leveled, so you never need to guess about the textual complexity of a book.


Extraordinary Files is a fast-paced fiction series, where two FBI agents tackle various supernatural mysteries. The titles in the series range from Guided Reading Level T–Y, allowing students to continue enjoying the series as their reading skills develop. 

The relationships between characters are complex and contain romantic elements that will appeal to a middle school audience. With 48 pages in each book, the Extraordinary Files series offers a substantive and accessible option for teen students.



The Download Series titles range from levels Q to T. Each title focuses on a high-interest topic, such as Motorcycles (level T) and Basketball (level S). In addition to informational facts, the books also contain fictional stories featuring older characters—the protagonist in Cool Brands (level T) uses aftershave, something that older students can relate to.


Other Hameray series like Underwater Encounters and Hameray Biography Series contain titles up to Guided Reading Level S. Look no further for middle school leveld books!


Click the left image below to download information about Extraordinary Files. Click the right image below to download information about Download

Extraordinary Files Sales sheet  Download Series Highlights


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Topics: Leveled Readers, Download, Extraordinary Files, Hi-Lo, Middle School

Hi-Lo Books for Movie Fanatics

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on May 4, 2017 4:17:00 PM

Books have a lot of competition in the modern day—children are increasingly turning to TV, video games, and the internet as their preferred form of entertainment. Many reluctant readers love watching movies, but find books to be stuffy or boring. Different media don’t have to exist in isolation to each other, though. Why not capture your reluctant reader’s interest with books about movies?


Behind the Scenes: Special Effects, from the Download series, discusses the various cinematic features included in movies. Readers learn about stop-motion animation, stuntmen, CGI, and more! The book showcases many pivotal moments in moviemaking history, such as the first movie with special effects and the first IMAX film. Any movie buff will be thrilled to read about the work that goes into moviemaking. Best of all, the book is filled with photographs from famous movie franchises such as King Kong and Spiderman.


The Hameray Biography Series highlights the life of Walt Disney, one of the most famous moviemakers of all time. The biography traces Walt Disney’s path to fame with Steamboat Willie and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Today, Walt Disney’s name still makes any child perk up with excitement; even your most reluctant reader will be drawn to this high-interest book!

Specifically written for students reading below their grade, Behind the Scenes: Special Effects and Walt Disney are perfect high-interest, low-level books. Your students will realize that books are just as entertaining as movies … and some books can even make movie-watching more interesting!


To download information about Download Series, click the left image below. To download a free Teacher's Guide for Walt Disney, click the right image below.

                                        Download Series Highlights    Bio TG

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Topics: Biography Series, Download, Reluctant Readers, Hi-Lo, Movie

A Call for Contemporary Books

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Mar 16, 2017 3:50:52 PM


We all have our favorite chapter books from childhood. As we fondly remember Charlotte’s Web, The Secret Garden, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins, we encourage our students to read them, too. Although it’s wonderful to recommend books that we genuinely enjoy, classics are not always the best option for reluctant readers. For students who are unconvinced about the pleasures of reading, classics actually have the danger of prompting students to ask, “Why should I even care?”

As much as we’d like to think that childhood is timeless, we can’t deny that technology, social, and other modern inventions are fundamentally changing the way children grow up. The “classics” I’ve mentioned above are called classics for a reason—Charlotte’s Web, the newest out of the three books, was published in 1952. Colored television didn’t even exist in 1952!

Reluctant readers may find it difficult to become invested in books that seem "old"—they’re much less likely to be compelled by a 19th-century girl that practices needlework than an urban teenager that wants to become a pop star. Relevancy is crucial in order for stduents to learn that books are meaningful resources.

Hameray’s Download series is committed to providing high-interest books about contemporary topics such as skateboarding, motorcycles, and PlayStation. Behind the Scenes: Fashion features famous fashion brands such as H&M and ZARA. With style pictures of celebrities like Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake, your students will be eager to make their way through the book!


Fashion is a constantly evolving industry, where styles can change drastically within months. The best part of Behind the Scenes: Fashion is that it focuses on the fundamental aspects of fashion, such as fashion shows, jeans, and fashion advertising. Even though this book was published in 2008, its contents are still exciting and relevant for children today! 

Childhood classics will always remain dear to our hearts, and there’s nothing wrong with passing them onto the next generation. However, especially for reluctant readers, contemporary books are a great tool for boosting reader enthusiasm!



Click the image below to learn more about the Download series.

Download Series Highlights


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Topics: Story World, Download, Reluctant Readers, Hi-Lo

Reader's Theater with Fables and Fairy Tales—with FREE download!

Posted by Kathy Crane on Aug 2, 2016 3:30:00 PM

This is a guest post by Kathy Crane, a kindergarten teacher, author, and curriculum developer. If you like what you see here, read her previous guest blog posts and click here to read her education blog

Fables are a great way to engage young readers along their learning-to-read journey. This year, after teaching some of my favorites tales like The Little Red Hen, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and The Three Pigs, I decided to try a new story, The Fox and the Goat. This fun tale offers great teaching opportunities, and was a favorite among my students.  I added to the fable by using The Fox and the Goat Theme Set available at one of my favorite go-to publishers, Hameray Publishing.

In addition to the fable, the set also includes three informational books: Animals Are Clever, Goats on the Goand The Life of a FoxI really enjoyed having the supporting texts to expand the animals and situations in the fable. These supporting nonfiction readings added to my student’s understanding and enjoyment of The Fox and the Goat story. 


To add to the fun of our fabled learning, my students love performing the fables through partner plays. You can download my "Three Pigs: Reader’s Theater or Partner Play," which complements Three Little Pigs from the Story World Real World series, for free at the bottom of this blog post! Please also be sure to check out my store for other reader's theater plays based on classic tales: CLICK HERE!


Kathy Crane holds a M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Reading. A published freelance author of thirteen books, Kathy also develops teaching curriculum and has been a teacher of kindergarten for over two decades. She publishes the blog Kindergarten Kiosk


For more information about the Fables and the Real World series, click on the image below.

Fables and the Real World More Information

To learn more about the Story World Real World Series, which contains the storybook complement to Kathy Crane's Reader's Theater, click on the image to the left below. To download Kathy Crane's FREE "The Three Pigs: A Young Reader's Reader's Theater" guide, click on the image to the right below.  
New Call-to-Action Three Pigs Reader's Theater
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Topics: Kindergarten, Download, Fables and the Real World, Reader's Theater

3 Ways to Get Boys Reading

Posted by Charity Preston on May 12, 2015 4:00:13 PM

This is a guest blog post by teacher blogger Charity Preston. If you like what you read here, check back for more of her guest blog posts, or visit her over on The Organized Classroom Blog!

We know that many students, boys or girls, aren’t intrinsically motivated to read. This can be for a variety of reasons, including not feeling confident about their reading skills, it not being encouraged as a regular practice at home, or perhaps he or she just isn’t interested in the material at hand.

For many boys, in particular, reading choice selections can play a huge part in the buy-in process. How about three ideas for keeping them engaged and interested?

Comic Books and Graphic Novels

I would rather have students reading comic books than not reading at all. There is a lot of vocabulary involved on the pages of comic books and lots of themes involved as well. Plots of hero versus villain and right versus wrong might prevail, but so can smaller takeaways such as lessons of friendship. Graphic novels are a great way to keep boys clued in that all reading doesn’t have to be dry. Pick up a few for your classroom to see if it encourages your students to get reading. Sometimes multi-genre books contain sequences with comic-style drawings interspersed with exciting nonfiction topics, like the Download series does.


Nonfiction Choices

Sports legends, snakes, and race cars are the stuff that nonfiction is made of. Use those key topics to your advantage. Nonfiction is full of text features you won’t find in your average chapter book. Filled with images and small, bite-sized chunks of information in captions and sidebars, nonfiction often captures boys' attention more. Plus, picking out topics of interest will not only increase vocabulary in those key subject areas, but it will keep students interested in learning more. You just might have to ask your boys to stop reading!

Snake_cover-PRINT-1    robinsonlg    motorcycleslg

Action Fiction Series

Many boys love a good action movie. Why not bring that movie to life in the books they read? For lots of students, it isn’t about quickly picking a book, but once he finds one in a series, he is suddenly hooked. Needing to read all the other adventures to find out what the main character is up to becomes an entire series of books. Perhaps an idea would be to do a “commercial” for several book series and use those to introduce the characters to your students. From that small teaser, your boys may be fighting over who gets the next chapter book!

robotlg zombieslg dayoflg

As adults, we typically don’t read too many items we aren’t particularly interested in - and your students are exactly the same! It is up to you to find varied materials with varied themes, characters, and formats. By providing a variety of literature, you are opening a whole world of language to your students and showing each that there is pleasure in reading just for fun!


Charity Preston, MA, is the editor and creator of several websites, including The Organized Classroom Blog, Classroom Freebies, and Teaching Blog Central, among others. She received her undergraduate degree in early childhood education from Bowling Green State University, OH and a Master in Curriculum and Instruction from Nova Southeastern University, FL, as well as a gifted endorsement from Ohio University. She taught third grade in Lee County, FL for several years before relocating back to her hometown as a gifted intervention specialist. You can see all her projects at www.PENGroupOnline.com.


For more information on the Hameray Biography Series, Zoozoo Animal World, the Download series, or the Extraordinary Files, which were featured in this post, click the image below to download an information sheet with series highlights and key features.

 Biography Series Highlights New Call-to-Action 

Download Series Highlights Extraordinary Files Sales sheet

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, Zoozoo Animal World, Biography Series, Download, Extraordinary Files, Charity Preston

Students Play Teacher: Writing Their Own Questions—with FREE download!

Posted by Diane Roethler on Sep 18, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Roethler-6-2-150This is a guest blog post from fifth-grade teacher Diane Roethler. If you like what you read here, read her other posts or check out her blog at this link!

I have previously blogged about both the Biography and Download series. Today I am sharing another quick and easy way to use those books or any other nonfiction books in your classroom.

Roethler-6-1-150After students have had the chance to read the book, they become the teacher and prepare questions for the other students to answer. Give them a blank task-card template, and let them create the question and four answer options.

It is interesting to see what kinds of questions students ask. Some go for big-idea questions, while others try to stump their classmates with the tiniest detail.

Roethler-6-150It is also interesting to see what kinds of answers choices students provide. Do they try to trick others with the answer choices, or do they have one obvious answer?

Allow the students to check their classmates’ work. If a lot of students have the same wrong answer, the student can go back to their question to see if they could have worded it differently or given better answer choices. The possibilities for extension activities are endless!


Diane has been teaching fifth grade in Iowa since 1999. She has her masters in Educational Technology and loves finding ways to integrate technology into her curriculum. She blogs about organization, classroom management, DIY projects, and more at fifthinthemiddle.blogspot.com. 


To download an information sheet with more information about the Download series, which contains the books show in this post, click the image to the left below. To download the nonfictio book worksheet, click the image to the right.

Download Series Highlights  Nonfiction Book Worksheet Download

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Topics: Informational Text, Biography Series, Download, Diane Roethler

A Scavenger Hunt for Informational Text Features—with FREE download!

Posted by Diane Roethler on Jun 20, 2014 8:00:00 AM

This is a guest blog post from fifth-grade teacher Diane Roethler. If you like what you read here, check out her blog at this link!

One of the activities that my kids like to do with nonfiction books sets is a sort of scavenger hunt. I like the hunt to focus on various features of nonfiction books—table of contents, index, glossary, etc. 

In my experience, when you ask a specific question, students don’t even know where to begin, so they start paging through the entire book. Needless to say, that is very inefficient and time-consuming. It’s also frustrating for the students. So I like activities like this as an intro to nonfiction books.


For this particular activity, I will be using books from the Download series. They are high-interest, yet my lower students will experience success. I also tell the kids that if they wish to read the book after they’ve finished the hunt, they have my permission to do that. (It seems that some students are more likely to read the book if I tell them that they don’t have to read it.)


I have included a generic worksheet that will go with any of the books in the Download series, and maybe even pair well with other nonfiction books that you have in your classroom. You can download this worksheet at the bottom of this page.


Diane has been teaching fifth grade in Iowa since 1999. She has her masters in Educational Technology and loves finding ways to integrate technology into her curriculum. She blogs about organization, classroom management, DIY projects, and more at fifthinthemiddle.blogspot.com. 


To download an information sheet with more information about the Download series, which contains the books show in this post, click the image to the left below. To download the nonfiction book worksheet, click the image to the right.

Download Series Highlights  Nonfiction Book Worksheet Download

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Topics: Informational Text, Download, Diane Roethler

Using Informational Text Features

Posted by Dana Lester on Mar 19, 2014 8:08:59 AM

This is a guest blog post by Dana Lester, who writes a blog called Common to the Core, in which she writes about the Common Core State Standards, student reading skills, behavior management, books and products, and more. Dana is writing a series of guest posts; to see her other contributions, you can click here!

Using Informational Text Features

When I was a child, text features were always my favorite part of our social studies and science books. The long paragraphs just looked too long and too boring to read. I’d rather get my information is short quick bursts of words. As a teacher, I’ve found this is true with most children. They like the pictures, maps, diagrams, timelines, and captions.

martialarts-200The Download series is written on a second- to third-grade reading level with a fourth- to ninth-grade interest level. They are aimed at struggling and reluctant readers. Book topics are of high interest to all children, especially boys. With titles like The Paranormal, Natural Disasters, Martial Arts, and BMX and Mountain Biking, what student could pass them up? Each book is primarily nonfiction, but includes a three-chapter fictional story that relates to the book topic.

I recently used several books from the Download series with my third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders. I passed the copies out to some of my more reluctant readers and let them start exploring without any directions or specifications. After fifteen minutes, I asked them what they thought about the books. They immediately began showing me all of the new things they’d learned. Guess what! Every single “cool new thing” they learned was in a picture or caption—proof that kids love text features! I asked them to specifically show me what they liked about the books. Some liked the fictional story inside the nonfiction text, some said all the captions, and others said they liked the pictures and maps. I had to pry these books out of their hands when they left the library so I could use them with my next class.

The third-grade Common Core State Standards specifically mention text features. Third-graders are expected to use text features and search tools to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently (ELA CCSS R.I. 3.5). While there are many ways to teach text features, I will share one lesson with you that I have taught.

Lester-7-250First, I wanted to highlight the differences between a text with text features and one without. I gave out a typed paragraph of nonfiction information. This could be on any topic you choose. The students were told to read the information and make as many notes as they could in about five minutes.

Then, I gave them the same information in a two-page spread, but with pictures, maps, captions, labels, and sidebars. I gave them the same directions as with the first passage. After examining both texts, we talked about the similarities and differences, and discussed which of the formats held their attention longer, which was easier to glean information from, etc. The consensus was that the passage with the text features was better.

The next part of the activity, which they loved, was to take a passage that had no text features and completely redo it to include as many types of text features as they wanted. They LOVED this! We pulled pictures off of the Internet, and used markers and colored pencils. Some students used the books from the Download series as inspiration for how to arrange their text features. They truly enjoyed this learning experience!

How have you taught text features in your classroom? I would love for you to share your lesson ideas in the comment section below!


Dana LesterDana Lester received a B.S. and Master’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and is currently teaching at Walter Hill School in Murfreesboro, TN. Dana is also a Common Core Coach with the Tennessee State Department of Education. She has 12 years of classroom experience and has just begun her role as Library Media Specialist. As a strong advocate of the Common Core Standards and Whole Brain Teaching strategies, she engages her students in hands-on, inquiry based learning and shares many ideas and activities on her blog, Common to the Core. She was named Teacher of the Year at Walter Hill in 2013.


To learn more about the Download series, you can click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights images below to download an information sheet with key features.

Download Series Highlights

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Topics: Informational Text, Dana Lester, Download

Helping Striving Readers: Q & A with Alan Trussell-Cullen, Pt. 1 of 2

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jun 19, 2013 8:00:00 AM

 Welcome to our first installation of videos in which teacher educator and author Alan Trussell-Cullen answers questions about struggling and striving readers in the upper grades and how to best help them take an interest in and achieve proficiency in reading.

Click on the videos to watch. Transcripts, if preferred, are available below each of the videos.

Q: What kinds of difficulties does a striving reader have in the upper grades?

A: I think the difficulties that striving readers have in the upper grades tend to be two-fold. On one hand, there are technical issues. Obviously they’re going to have gaps in terms of their reading skills and their reading strategies. Because they’ve got those gaps they’re probably also going to have difficulties with comprehension.

Because a lot of learning that takes place in the upper grades is very closely tied in with reading, there is a lot of reading involved, then they’re going to have difficulties probably in other subject areas; the content areas like science and social studies, even mathematics and so on.

But the main difficulties that they tend to have tend to be attitudinal. It’s how they feel about themselves as readers and that so often tends to be rather negative and generally a lack of self-esteem that comes from the consistent problems they’ve been having with reading.


Q: What kinds of materials would be useful to support teachers and striving readers?

 A: I think there are two things that reading materials have to do. First of all they’ve got to provide success for these striving readers. Secondary, they’ve got to provide acceleration.
When we’re looking for good reading materials for striving readers, we need to look at the interest level or the content. It is tremendously important that the content is pitched at the age level that the student have when they’re reading this material. It has to be about the kind of things that students their age are interested in and want to know about and want to read about and get involved in.

That’s where materials like Hameray’s Download series and the The Extraordinary Files series are so valuable. Just have a look at the content; skateboarding, BMX riding, mountain bikes, pop groups, that’s really cool for kids of this age.

The language is very important. It’s important that not only that do characters do the kind of things they like doing, and think about the kind of things that they’d like to be able to be able to do and so on, they also need to talk like them too.


Q: What do you think about using plays for striving readers in the upper grades?

 A: I really like the Hameray’s SuperScript Series. Plays are using all the language written down, they’ve same things people say when they talk. Talk is one of those things which striving readers can do. So when they are reading that material they’re also able to refer to back to their own knowledge and experience in terms of oral vocabulary, in terms of the kind of language constructions we use when we talk.

When you’re reading a play, you’re reading with a group of other students, you’re reading together with other people. That’s very supportive. It’s also fun. It’s also fun to be able to do something with your peers, so that’s great.  While the reading age is more appropriate for Grade 2, Grade 3, the interest level is very much pitched to Grade 4 to 8.

If I was reading the play script, one of the things I would be supported by is the color coding, but also the big spaces between the lines. Basically, this is a very supportive text for a striving reader.  The context is really spot on for the readers of this age. Just look at the titles, Time Warriors, Alien Attack. They’re really just exciting materials. I also like the fact the speeches are short, the cast is small so everybody gets a turn. I like the fact that the action moves along quickly and also they’re supported nicely by some illustration here.

They have also have some other clever things that come with them. The cast names are in colored code. So that you just have to know well I'm the green one, or so I'm reading the yellow part. That actually helps you. Because so often when kids are doing a play, they get so engrossed in the play they forget ah, it’s my turn next. So that’s a useful tip as well.  So it’s all very helpful from a reading point of view, from a language point of view, from a social point of view, and also I think from a literacy point of view as well, because those are wonderful tradition in terms of drama and theater.

I think it might also encourage them in their writing as well. They might want to write a story about the kind of experience they have read here. They might want to write their own script, who knows. They might want to write their own little video play, lots of exciting possibilities.
Maybe one other point, when you’re on a play, particularly some of the characters in these plays, these characters have got attitude. They do things. They say things. They make things happen, and that’s very empowering for them as people too.


The book series mentioned in this interview, Download series, The Extraordinary Files, and SuperScripts are part of Hameray's High Interest / Low Vocabulary genre, intended to encourage struggling readers to read through presenting compelling topics that they want to read about. Download offers facts about the exciting world of extreme sports and hot contemporary subjects such as technology and natural disasters. The Extraordinary Files is a mystery-fiction series that follows the adventures of two sleuths as they work to solve cases, often of a supernatural bent. SuperScripts are action-packed, easy-to-follow plays in such genres as sci-fi, drama, and sports. They combine reading with social interaction, making it fun for even the most reluctant reader.

Flip through samples of books from these series to see how they appeal to readers who have trouble taking an interest in reading.

If you're interested in learning more about these series, you can click on the images below to download an information sheet with highlights and key features. Check back on Friday for the second part of this Q & A!

- Tara Rodriquez

Download Series Highlights Extraordinary Files Sales sheet SuperScripts Sales Sheet

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Topics: Videos, Alan Trussell-Cullen, Struggling Readers, Striving Readers, SuperScripts, Download, Extraordinary Files

Text Variety Helps Inspire Striving Readers: Alan Trussell-Cullen Pt. 2

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on May 13, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Exposing students to a wide variety of texts will both prepare them for life outside the describe the imageclassroom and also increase the chances that even the most reluctant readers will stumble upon a topic that will capture their interest and nurture a love of reading. In the second installation of our series of interviews with Alan Trussell-Cullen, teacher educator and author of our new Story World-Real World series, he shares some of his experiences in the classroom that illustrate just how important this variety can be.

Can you explain why it’s important for children to read an array of different types of text?

Firstly, it’s a matter of survival. In order to survive in the world today, we are confronted by so many different kinds of text, from road signs and billboards to manuals and recipe books, from poetry and literature to advertising slogans and TV graphics, from romance and mysteries to weather reports and timetables, and from blogs and tweets to “How-to” guides and “Who-done-it” mysteries. To live a so-called “normal” life in our modern world, one has to be able to read, understand, respond to, and create all kinds of text.

Secondly, it’s a matter of knowing what is out there in order to exercise our right to choose. When it comes to reading, we all have our fads and favorites. Adults do, and children, too. That’s not a bad thing—when Harry Potter appeared on the scene, millions of children suddenly began to read in a way they had never read before!

But children can also get stuck on a particular kind of book. Sometimes they lack the confidence to branch out and try something new. That’s where the good teacher can do a great job building reader confidence and coaxing them to try something new.

Often, it is a matter of finding some kind of personal link or connection. I can remember a nine-year-old boy in a class I was teaching. His name was Steve, and Steve was adamant that he didn’t like reading. Every day after the lunch break, the children in my class came back into the classroom and did about ten minutes of SSR. (Everyone probably knows that SSR stands for “Sustained Silent Reading,” but one six-year-old recently told me SSR stood for Super Silent Reading!)

Anyway, Steve hated SSR. While everyone else read their chosen library book or a book from the Class Bookshelf, or a book or story written by one of the children in the class (the kids would tell you: “We are all writers in this class!”), Steve would sit and fidget or stare into space. All my attempts to find something of interest for him didn’t seem to work.

And then one day a miracle happened. He told the class about his big brother. His big brother had a motorbike. His big brother loved his motor bike. So did Steve. He loved to help his brother take it apart and clean it and tune it. Now I knew next to nothing about motorbikes, so I asked Steve how he and his big brother knew what to do when they worked on the bike.

“He’s got these manual things,” said Steve. “He lets me read them, too.”motorcycles

 “Hey,” I said. “Do you think your brother would let you bring his motorbike manuals to school? You could read it at SSR time!”

Steve’s eyes lit up.

“Could I?” he asked.

The next day when the kids settled in for SSR, there was Steve with a rather tattered and suitably oil-stained volume which was obviously his brother’s motorbike manual! It was very technical, with diagrams and photographs, but Steve seemed to be reading it. I usually finished SSR with a few minutes of sharing, so on this day I asked Steve to tell us about his book. He began shyly, pointing out what he and his brother did the other night. He showed the class the page and explained the diagram. The class was enthralled—and not just the boys!

I had a special list on the wall headed “Our Class Experts.” Whenever someone showed they had special knowledge about something, we put their name up there. Then the other kids knew who to go to when they needed information or help on that subject. One of the kids put a hand up and said: “I think Steve should be up there as our class expert on motorbikes!”

Everyone agreed.

By now Steve was obviously floating on cloud nine!

He brought more stuff on motorbikes the next day. He wasn’t just looking at pictures—he was really reading. Other kids began to ask him questions. In art he drew motorbikes. Each day we had a writing time. Steve began to write about motorbikes. At first he wrote about the things he did with his brother. Then he began to write a book on motorbikes. The other kids loved it. One girl took it home. She said she wanted to show it to her brother, but I knew she didn’t have a brother! The whole class began to write manuals. Steve then began to make up stories about motorbikes. From motorbikes he moved to racing cars, and then big trucks. Then it was action stories and action heroes...

And what did I, as a teacher, learn from that? Reading shouldn’t just be about reading what the teacher thinks the children need to read. It isn’t just about reading books. And it isn’t about doing lots of “reading practice.” It’s about doing real reading, about helping kids connect their school experience with what they know and enjoy and love doing in their own lives. It’s about bringing the real world into their classroom and into their imagination.

Should parents and teachers approach how they use informational texts differently than narrative reading materials when reading with children? Why or why not?

I think Steve is the answer to this question. We don’t need to make a big difference between reading informational texts and reading fictional and imaginative material. It isn’t really a child reading smiling 6079588 Monkey Business Imagesdifferent kind of reading. If something is part of our lives, it can be part of our reading. Sometimes people think fiction is more emotional than nonfiction—but Steve really loved his motorbike manuals! And sometimes people think boys enjoy informational texts more than girls do. Well, maybe sometimes boys do, but we need to push children beyond received stereotypes. The girl who first took home Steve’s book on motorbikes wasn’t doing so to share it with her non-existent brother—she wanted to read it for herself!

Children need to read both informational texts and narrative reading material and they also need to write both and talk about both and feel free to choose both.

And incidentally, that is why I chose to write the Story World-Real World series for Hameray—it combines the world of imagination with the world of reality. We need both because one balances the other.

Can you tell us your best tip for teaching reading to beginning readers?

Don’t get too hung up about lots of standardized tests and reading levels. There are two wonderful instruments for assessing reading progress, and they are way better than any standardized test. And those are a good teacher’s ears and eyes!

The more we observe our children and listen to them, the more we will discover about them and the more we can help them become confident and engaged and unstoppable readers and writers.

...5054 Bears Cover FINAL

Story World-Real World, Alan's newest endeavor, features retellings of traditional tales that are coupled with informational texts to provide real-world background knowledge and support the elements of the story. For example, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which stands well on its own as an entertaining story, is available in this series bundled with books on bears, temperature, and breakfast. Each "theme" in the series works this way—by pulling elements out of the narrative text of the traditional story and giving children information about how those elements work in the real world. 

To learn more about the new series, you can download a page of key features below:

New Call-to-Action

We'll have more content from Alan Trussell-Cullen in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back regularly if you like his tips for helping children learn to love reading! Additionally, if there is a reluctant reader in your home or classroom who likes motorbikes, be sure to check out our Download series, with topics such as Motorcycles, Motocross, and BMX bikes!

- Tara Rodriquez

*Photo credit: Monkey Business Images

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, Story World, Real World, Interview, Alan Trussell-Cullen, Download, Reluctant Readers

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