Hi there! J Monkeys coming to you from a Monday morning. Woot! For any who don’t know, I’m a parent who studied literature in college and writes children’s books. I’m excited to put those experiences together as a member of the One Book One School selection committee for my children’s school.
One Book One School is a program where a school selects one book and assigns it to every student with projects and activities that cover a variety of disciplines. Now depending on the age range of students at the school, selecting a title can be tough. Is there a book that is appropriate to both a kindergartener and a sixth grader? Even in my children’s primary school (kindergarten to 2nd grade) it’s wicked hard.
Kindergartners are only just learning to read. They are memorizing sight words and beginning to understand phonetic pronunciation. By the end of second grade, most students can read pretty well. Finding a book that is challenging, interesting and appropriate for these disparate needs is tough.
Trust me. I’ve read a dozen books over the past week looking for something to recommend. I’m calling it my quest for Pete the Katniss.
Pete the Cat is a series of picture books that follow the antics of a cat named Pete. His stories are simple, repetitive and often set to music.
Katniss (in case you live under a rock) is the oft-violent heroine of The Hunger Games, a young adult distopian political thriller type romance.
For my school’s One Book One School program, I need to find a title that is as interesting as The Hunger Games, but has material that is age appropriate for five year old kids. And, of course, it’s top secret. I can’t disclose the titles I’ve been reading.
“But J, there are thousands of books to choose from, how hard can it be to pick one?” you ask. Surprisingly difficult. After the committee’s first meeting, I stopped at the library to get the five books we had selected. I read them, all children’s books that I had read decades ago, assuming that they would be good choices. WRONG!
I read those five, and seven more, looking for books to recommend. It turns out that books published before 1955, as three of them were, are often sexist, racist, xenophobic, use outdated language that can be considered inappropriate now, and/or often have a heavy handed sentence structure that would be completely over the heads of my kindergartners.
One was too anti-school. A couple of others were too short – the committee is looking for a chapter book in the neighborhood of 200 pages long. Obviously, it’s an assignment for the parents as well as the students.
Another betrayed the truth about a certain holiday gift-giver in such a way that I’m concerned the parents would set the building on fire. There was a trio of books that are intended for a slightly older audience (really all of these are for an audience older than our students) and might just be a bit over the heads of these 5-8 years olds.
I did find two that I wholeheartedly recommend, although one of them is a pretty popular series and might be disqualified for that reason. The committee is looking for something that would be new to most everybody.
I’m left with one; one book to recommend out of a dozen Middle Grade books read.
What would you recommend? I’m looking for something that would appeal to both boys and girls, is a chapter book, and is not likely to offend the parents with subject matter that they would deem inappropriate for a young child. Bring ‘em on. I’ve got a follow up meeting this week. I’ll let you know how it goes.