Choosing Literature Part 1: The Background

So earlier this month, Renay was working on a new blog post and then after a few key conversations, she realized she was about to blog post something and she had just made a list of suggestions with no real reason why, realizing that offering the suggestions and the reasons in the same blog post would have been nearly impossible. So we’re going to start with the reasons today.

Why literature?

We’re all too aware of the mandate of more non-fiction reading by students based on Common Core (CCSS). And while several students may still have fun with non-fiction reading, most non-fiction actually isn’t early reader friendly. There are great things that come from reading fiction from myths, historical fiction, science fiction, and even fantasy that bridge social gaps that may not exist in non-fiction. Literature does have its place in CCSS.

So, my readers are in English/ELA classes, but they aren’t able to read the book chosen by the teacher [interpreted, reading level required for book is much higher than student is currently able], what am I really supposed to do? My readers are in a group read, but what book will really interest them?

The list, which will come soon, has a few points. First, we chose books primarily by the fact that there was a reliable movie made for the book’s audience. Secondly, we chose books that were commonly read or experienced by students—popular fiction. These were not always books supported by the district at the grade level the student was reading, nor was it a book that the class may have been reading at the time. If it had parallels, we provided those for discussion in class. And finally, we looked for books that had good support materials. Not just materials that ParaEducate created, but materials that were readily available for use.

But there are other factors in choosing books: students’ interest, length of chapter, readability, goals of students in ELA classes, lifelong skills for students (ability to look up words, stretching student’s recall, identifying adjectives), and introducing social skills. It’s amazing that literature could do all of these skills in a 200 page novel, but these things are addressed with a good teacher.

How do I bring another book into a classroom?

It depends on the set up. Most recently we had been working with a special education ELA program to use literature instead of a corrective reading program. But for reading groups, its been an option, with general education teacher support, to provide a group of students to pull in a student with a disability into the class. And while there may even be differentiated work within the group, everyone is working on understanding and appreciating the book together.

This seems like a lot of work. Do I have to?

Actually no: You do not have to do this. Some paraeducators are able to walk into ever class blind and deal with the book being taught and pick up on the clues from the teachers. It might not always work for every student, but that is a solution. Should you stay up every night trying to be at least one chapter ahead of the students? It would be nice but it is not necessary. Being as organic as the students as they are learning about the book is genuine. You have no agenda other than uncovering the mysteries the author left the readers.

Okay this book is not working out what should I do?

How long did it take you to get into the book? Realize that a student with a disability might need a longer time to get associated with the book than you or peers might. A suggestion Renay made a few weeks back took a group of students three weeks to attach to and they are now reluctant to put the book away. Stick it out for five chapters spread over a few weeks. See what happens.

This book is really too hard for the students.

The little secret: some of the reading is always too hard for the students, especially reluctant readers. One of the points, especially with students who are older and still reluctant, “This is the now. We do not have to do this every day, but one day soon, some parts of this gets easier.” Utilize the movie as a buy in, watch a little after you’ve read a few chapters. Give the students a visual to pair the world created by the author with. Even if the movie is horribly done, some of the movie does pair well with the book.

Reading is the cornerstone of education. Whether the preferred reading activity is an operators’ manual for a tractor or a book about chickens that farm, finding the way to get a student hooked into reading is a goal we all seek.


One more thing: ParaEducate will be at Cal-TASH 2016 in Sacramento, California, February 26 & 27th. If you are interested check out the conference. If you are coming, Renay should be around the events.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12.ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.  

About paraeducate

ParaEducate is a company run to help reach out to paraeducators or paraprofessionals in public K-12 schools, giving advice, talking about publications that ParaEducate produces, and other useful information regarding working in public school settings.

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2 Responses to Choosing Literature Part 1: The Background

  1. Pingback: Choosing Literature Part 2: The Reading List | ParaEducate Blog

  2. Pingback: Choosing Literature Part 3: Getting To Understanding | ParaEducate Blog

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