For me, books have always been a trusted friend. A friend that is just like me, the complete opposite of me, or me transformed in another world. Books are mirrors or windows (I think I’ve said this before). In books, we see ourselves or through to something else.
Reading realistic fiction with my students, picture or chapter books, has always provided opportunities for connections in my classroom. Honest questions are asked, discussions are had, and at times – tears are shed. And if we are lucky, a student falls in love with a book. Magic.
A couple weeks ago, I blogged about some of my favorite historical fiction books. Today, I hope you add some of these realistic fiction books to your classroom.
bird by Angela Johnson
A sensitive story of a girl trying to keep her family together. Bird is thirteen and cannot accept the fact that her stepfather has left. She follows him to Alabama to try and convince him to return to Cleveland to rejoin her family. In searching for security, she becomes security for two young boys with problems of her own.
feathers by Jaqueline Woodson
Two things led me to pick up this book at the bookstore – the author (one of my favorites) and the main character’s name (characters never have my name!). Woodson is one of my favorites because she speaks to readers with honesty, compassion, and understanding. Her books tackle difficult topics such as race, gender, and relationships. In feathers, Frannie begins to view the world around her in new ways after hearing a quote from a poem at school – “Hope is the thing with feathers”. A powerful read aloud or book club selection, Frannie helps readers realize the beauty of looking deeper.
deaf child crossing by Marlee Matlin
This book is a window for most students. The perspective of a deaf child is a rare one in children’s literature and Marlee Matlin does a beautiful job. Megan and Cindy become fast friends when Cindy moves into the neighborhood. They are inseparable. As summer approaches, their friendship becomes tested when they go to camp together. Matlin explores friendship and all its facets through the eyes of two young girls.
Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
I love a book that is told from several different perspectives. Some readers find it difficult to follow, bouncing back and forth from character to character, but I enjoy getting the whole story from all those involved. Seedfolks uses a vacant lot to connect neighbors, stories, and lives together in an inner city neighborhood. Two years ago, a group in my fifth grade reading class chose to read this book together. I had to make a judgement call. I knew some of the content was heavy (pregnant teenager), but I also knew where my students were coming from. I knew why Valerie connected to it after skimming through the pages (pregnant sister). I knew Eric would idenifywith Kim’s optimism. I knew that Seedfolks was going to be a mirror and a window for my students. Just as the characters saw promise in the soil, I saw promise in this book.
Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, and The Caulder Game: A trifecta of awesomeness! Although considered more mystery than realistic fiction, Blue Balliett’s series sends readers on journeys through art and architecture, friendship and hardship, trials and tribulations. Secret messages and codes are woven into each story with pentominoes, riddles, mazes, and more. Readers are exposed to the art of Vermeer, the architecture of Wright, and the sculpture of Caulder while following friends as they investigate mysteries throughout Chicago and England (Caulder Game).
Maybe you have already read some of these with your students, maybe you’ve never heard of them, but I hope you give them a chance.