Reading about Reading

cover art

Lois Lowry's book, Zooman Sam (Houghton, 1999 ISBN 0395973937. Order Info.), besides being yet another delightful romp with the Krupnik family, revolves around Sam's learning to read -- a process he pretty much accomplishes on his own in preschool school. See Kids' Books this month for more on Zooman Sam.

That book brought to mind the many books that involve reading as more than the process with which each book is read. It might be fun to put together some of these "reading" books and see what we can do with them.

Some books like Zooman Sam involve the learning process itself. In some books a child teaches him or her self. In others a child teaches a child. Still others deal with child and adult but it is not always the adult who teaches and the child who learns.

(Other books do not revolve around learning to read but about the books read. We'll deal with that one later.)

Gather together some of the books that involve learning to read and, with the kids, begin to categorize them. Some book to start with: :

Picture Books:

Avi The Bird, the Frog and the Light Orchard, 1994 ISBN 0531068080. Order Info.

Bogart, Jo Ellen Jeremiah learns to Read Orchard, 1999 ISBN 0531301907. Order Info.

Bunting, Eve The Wednesday Surprise Clarion, 1989 ISBN 0395547768. Order Info.

Duvoisin, Roger Petunia Knopf, 1962 ISBN 0394908651. Order Info.

Johnston, Tony Amber on the Mountain Dial, 1994 ISBN 0803712197. Order Info.

Lionni, Leo The Alphabet Tree Knopf, 1990 ISBN 0679808353. Order Info.

Polacco, Patricia Aunt Chip & the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair Putnam, 1996 ISBN 0399229434. Order Info.

Polacco, Patricia Thank You, Mr. Falker Philomel, 1998 ISBN 0399231668. Order Info.

Polacco, Patricia The Bee Tree Philomel, 1993 ISBN 039921965X. Order Info.

Rahaman, Vashanti Read for Me, Mama Boyds Mills, 1997 ISBN 1563973138. Order Info.


Fleischman, Sid The Whipping Boy Greenwillow, 1986 ISBN 0688062164. Order Info.

Lowry, Lois Zooman Sam (see above)

Paulsen, Gary Nightjohn Laurel Leaf, 1995 ISBN 0440219361. Order Info.


Charting always works for me ito organize and categorize information. I'd set up one like this after reading Zooman Sam aloud to any group from first grade up.






Sam uses phonetic cues to master the art of reading. Conduct a poll among adults and children to see how different people learned.

Collect anecdotes of people discovering reading on their own and learning it in school.

Interview some kindergarten and first grade teachers in your own and other schools to see how they go about helping children learn to read. Have they always taught it that way?

Talk to people who are engaged in teaching adults to read. Do they use the same techniques? Is there any thing you can do to help?

Together, try to learn to read simple material in a language that does not use our alphabet. See if the kids can figure out what skills they are using to decipher it.

Make illustrations labeled with words from other languages or alphabets.

Investigate alphabet books. Make displays of various fonts or alphabets.

Let's move on to those books which celebrate books and reading beyond the learning stage.

Here's the beginning of such a list:

Picture Books

Kimmel, Eric I Took My Frog to the Library Viking, 1990 ISBN 0670824186. Order Info.

McPhail, David Edward and the Pirates Little, 1997 ISBN 0316563447. Order Info.

Winter, Jeanette The Librarian of Basra:A True Story from Iraq Harcourt, 2005 ISBN 9780152054458. Order Info.

McPhail, David Fix It Dutton, 1984 ISBN 0525440933. Order Info.

Thompson, Colin How to Live Forever Knopf, 1996 ISBN 067987898X. Order Info.

Williams, Suzanne Library Lil Dial, 1997 ISBN 0803716982. Order Info.

Winch, John The Old Woman Who Loved to Read Holiday, 1996 ISBN 0823412814. Order Info.


Avi Who Stole the Wizard of OzKnopf, 1981 ISBN 0394849922. Order Info.

Lasky, Kathryn Memoirs of a Bookbat Harcourt, 1994 ISBN 0152157271. Order Info.

Miles, Betty Maudie & Me & the Dirty Book Avon, 1981 ISBN 0390555417. Order Info.

Spinelli, Jerry The Library Card Scholastic, 1997 ISBN 059046731X. Order Info.

People in those books are actively involved in getting information and inspiration from books.

Start a list of highly recommended reading from kids in each grade. Publish their reviews throughout the school in a newspaper, web page, or some other means.

Make a mural labeled "Don't Miss Says…" on which recommended titles are displayed together with the name of the person endorsing them.

Start a bulletin board display entitled "One Good Book Leads to Another" on which children place a card bearing the citings of a book and connect it with yarn to another book which is related to it in some way -- the same author, plot, characters, etc.

Have children pair off and read a picture book together, first looking only at the illustrations, then only at the text. Which was most informative? Which was most interesting?

Have a Read-In. Invite readers of all ages to come together for an evening at school spent reading. Allow plenty of time afterward for conversations about their reading.

Set up one part of the cafeteria as a read aloud lunch area in which one person reads aloud as the others eat lunch.

Contact organizations that encourage reading such as Reading Is Fundamental. See what they are doing and what you can do to help.

Start a birthday campaign for library books in which children celebrate their birthdays by donating a book they like to the library. Be sure that a book plate is placed in each donated book naming the donor and the occasion.


Related Areas of Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site

  • Reading. Curriculum Area with Articles and Professional Books.
  • Lois Lowry. Featured Author.