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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Choosing the year's first read aloud

September 2, 2009

An article in the New York Times, Choosing Summer's Last Big Read, describes how summer, with its illusion of more free time, means reading a certain kind of book. With my personal reading, I can definitely relate to leisurely summer reading. Other books are strictly winter reads, and sit collecting dust until cooler temperatures. I mean, who could read Tenderness of Wolves or Snow Falling on Cedars in the summer?! I can't really describe why certain books map to certain times of the year for me, but it's very real.

All this thinking about summer books made me think about books for fall, specifically that first read aloud you share with your new class of kids. What's the perfect first read aloud? I'm thinking beyond the picture book to a chapter book that the class has to commit to. My last post on read alouds listed some my favorites, and teachers and librarians commented in with their own favorites, creating a good list of its own.

My friends' kids are in classrooms with pretty predictable, solid, can't go wrong choices: The Hundred Dresses, The BFG, and George's Marvelous Medicine. In talking with my friends about these books, I realized no one mentioned any nonfiction — no autobiographies, biographies, or memoirs. I'm not sure what this means, but with wonderful nonfiction award winners like these I'm sure some nonfiction titles will be read soon.

Teachers, what did you pick for your first read aloud, and why that book? Parents, what did your child's teacher pick? How does your child like the book?


I am currently teaching fifth grade in the Back of the Yards area on the South side of Chicago. Recently, I made the never before choice of reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar as my read aloud. Since it is centered around a school that is full of the impossible and zany, it gives students the motivation they need to attach themselves to the characters and the support they need with the clarifications they would otherwise have missed reading independently. I intend to begin every year with this read!

I always start out my third graders with "A Fine, Fine School" - they love it and are relieved that they don't have school on the weekends and holidays! :)

As a former third and fourth grade teacher, one of my favorite read-a-lousds was Shel Silverstein's Lafcadio. My students were always begging for one more chapter!

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing has always been a big hit. I enjoy giving Fudgie a special voice. :-)

When I was teaching fourth grade, I always started out with Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing.

As a public children's librarian, I always gravitate toward Newbery winners, especially those that kids just don't seem to choose on their own. This year for a read-aloud with our homeschool group, though, I've started with Beverly Cleary's The Mouse and the Motorcycle - what fun!

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"Books are a uniquely portable magic." —

Stephen King