• Children's Books in the English Classroom

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    What native speaker didn’t have the chance to learn to read with bright colorful pictures and fonts larger than your chubby fingers? You felt like the smartest child in the world when you finished that big 50-page book. You were a super sleuth detective because if you didn’t know what a word meant you could figure it out through the illustrations. You were the fastest reader in the world because you turned the pages so quickly you didn’t even notice there wasn’t that much written on each page. I think our English students should also have this great opportunity to have the same self-esteem building experience.

    Children’s literature is great pedagogically because it uses a vocabulary appropriate for beginning English learners. Sentence structures are simple. Generally there is a lot of repetition so once a reader decodes how to sound the word “catch” by the end of the book they should be reading the word with little hesitation. Many children’s books rhyme and have a natural rhythm (especially Dr. Seuss) and this can help with identifying pronunciation patterns. The illustrations provide wonderful context clues so the reader can discover the meaning of the words written. Children’s lit is a fun way for students to learn what they need to know.

    Children’s books, aren’t they just for children? No! You may meet resistance when trying to use children’s books with adults. Remember you are the teacher and you know what is good for them. If needed explain the pedagogical reasons you are using this type of literature. Read several books to them before turning them loose on their own. Read the books with enthusiasm, voices, and make sure everyone gets to see the pictures.

    How to bring Children’s books into your classroom: Engage activity, independent reading for those who finish reading early, have a class library, homework-read a children’s book to a child at home, to introduce new concepts, certificates for reading X number of books, for when you have 3 extra minutes at the end of class, create children’s books, read as a reward for having accomplished a difficult tasks, and if schedules allow have a “Buddy Reading Day” when a more advanced class reads one on one with a the less advanced class. Have the each one read a book to the other. The more advanced student can read a more challenging book and then help the other with pronunciation as the less advanced student reads a level appropriate book.

    How to choose a good children’s book:

    • Choose books that coincide with lesson material.
    • Choose books that coincide with your students’ interest.
    • Choose books that are not too long
    • Choose books with good plots
    • Choose quality books, not freebies from McDonalds
    • Newbery Medal and Caldecott Award Books - go to books considered to be the best published books and best illustrated books respectively
    • Choose books you won’t mind reading 50 times in a row.
    • Choose books you loved as a child.
    • You can’t go wrong with Dr. Seuss

    Just because reading can be such a challenge to non-native speakers, it doesn’t have to be a chore. Incorporate children’s literature in the classroom and have fun.

    Reading is to the mind like running is to the body. If a person wants to exercise their mind, read a good book. Lamar Cole

    Michelle Beckham



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