Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Kids' Favorite Reads

Thanks to Ruth over at Inspiring Readers and Writers for this tidbit.

At the Center for Teaching and Learning, a K-8, non-profit, demonstration school in Edgecomb, Maine and the working home of Nancy Atwell, you will find a list of books recommended by kids. Here is the introduction from the page.
We asked our students to list the ten books each of them loved enough to believe they would convince a kid in their grade who was like him or her but didn't like to read that reading is great. These were their picks.
Frankly, I was surprised that the lists are separated by gender. I was a reader in school, so I took peer recommendations very seriously, regardless of whether they came from boys or girls. This may make more sense at the upper grades, but I'm not convinced it should be a division we push in the early elementary grades. Since my son is in Kindergarten, I looked carefully at the lists recommended by boys and girls at this level. Believe it or not, I was astounded by the results. Sure, Eric Carle, Mem Fox, Kevin Henkes, Leo Lionni and a few other notables appear on both lists, but there are more differences in the two sets of selections than there are similarities. Here are a few things I noticed.
  • There are a total of 41 authors on the K boys list and 53 on the K girls list.
  • While the boys and girls may share similar authors, they don't necessarily share the same books by those authors.
  • The only Eric Carle book on the shared list is The Mixed-Up Chameleon.
  • The Magic School Bus series appears on one of the K lists. (My thought - really???)
I'm not quite sure what to make of these lists. I reread a lot of books as a kid, so I wonder how many books on the K list appear on the 1st and so on. With so many kids working through AR these days, rereading is not something many kids are encouraged to do. I also worry about the dichotomy between books for boys and girls. While my son reads his fair share of train books, he also reads Eloise and Madeline, loved The Year of the Dog, and is now laughing his way through the Ramona series with me. I want him to love books about both boys and girls. In addition to our books about girls, we have read the Stuart books by Sarah Pennypacker and just about every Henry and Mudge book that's been written.

I have lots of questions, but no real answers. Head on over and check out the lists, then please come back and share your thoughts. I'd love to hear them.


  1. Thanks for weeding through these lists so carefully. Upon a second look I see how they're skewed and find your analysis fascinating.

    I suppose there's no real way to come up with the perfect list, but I had to see boys and girls separate from each other since I feel that only goes to further marginalize the sexes when they want to read a book that isn't like their own gender. Hmph!

  2. Tricia,

    Did the children select from books they had read/been read at school and at home?

    When I was teaching second grade, I used to ask each student to make a list of the ten best books I had read in class at the end of the school year. It seems "The Tailypo" by Joanna and Paul Galdone was always one of the books best loved by both boys and girls. And both both and girls loved the Ramona books!

  3. NYC Teacher and Elaine,
    I wish there was more information provided about how they were directed to select the books. I think it would make a huge difference if these were books read at home or at school. Given the size of classes in this school (only 9 students are accepted in K each year), the lists could be a very telling glimpse into the choices of the teachers if these were, in fact, selected from favorite classroom reads.

  4. Atwell goes into a bit more depth (although not a lot) about the creation of the book lists in her book, The Reading Zone (which is how I happened upon the lists). Let me go get the book --

    Okay, she doesn't go into why the lists are separated by gender. Personally I found it fine that they were. Although I cannot speak for Atwell, I don't believe she is in any way deeming books "girl reads" or "boy reads." It seems to me more of a logical organizational system -- it allows the list reader to have some insight into the creators of the lists.

    As far as home reads & school reads -- the books on the list are the students' MOST INFLUENTIAL in making them want to be a reader -- no matter where they came from. One of CTL's core beliefs when it comes to reading is that students have lots of authentic, pleasurable experiences with books. Middle school students are reading 40 + novels each school year -- that's in addition to the read alouds.

    Those on "the list" are books that allowed the student to experience "the zone" -- that happy place where you are transported by a book. Therefore, I'm assuming the books are primarily self-selected books that allowed students to experience this.

    If anyone has read The Reading Zone, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Atwell's ideas.


  5. Hi Ruth,
    My familiarity with Atwell's work extends only to Writing in the Middle and other similar works. This sounds like a really interesting piece. I will definitely look for it.

  6. Also, I've been thinking, perhaps she separated the lists by gender because of all the focus in the field about gender & writing workshop. There's Newkirk's book, Misreading Masculinity & Ralph Fletcher's new one on boys & workshop. Then there's Stephanie Jones book, Girls, Social Class, & Literacy. Perhaps the gender differetiation was influenced by this???

  7. Thanks for your post. As a school media specialist, I have lots of questions about how the study was done, but I also have lots of opinions on the subject (don't get me started on AR!)

    I think that kids at that age (Kindergarten) are interested in books about what they are interested in, in "real life". My K students check out a lot of non-fiction (animals, space, sports, dinosaurs are popular choices)and then I do have the group of girls who ONLY want to check out Princess books. Now I read a story to these students every week and I try to mix it up and read things that they might not have at home or might not think to check out. Sometimes that influences what they check out that day, so maybe whatever they read the day before at home or at school has influenced their answers?

    As far as gender, I think that parents can greatly influence at this age what their kids read. As you said, you understand great children's literature and expose your son to those, I ahve done the same, my boys know about Madeline and my daughter has read Donald Crews books (Truck, Train etc..) BUT it amazes me how many parents don't know about what is out there for good children's literature and just pick upt he latest Pokemon book or pink princess book for their child.

    Oops, I am gettign itno a rant, but Thank You again for starting this discussion!

  8. Tricia,

    What an interesting bunch of lists! I'm fascinated by their make-up. The range for each is so great as are the books themselves. It was great to see older and newer books together. I wonder how many of the books were truly kid-promoted and how many were partly the result of a teacher reading them aloud or otherwise promoting them (and there is, by the way, nothing wrong with that). For example, Eragon would be on my kids' list too, but not because of me. (I mean I read it and think it is fine, but I wouldn't be pushing it as I do other books.)

    I'm wondering if the gender separation was something initiated by the children themselves.

  9. I wonder how diverse this group of readers is (ethnically, socio-economically, etc.), and how these lists would go over on a different demographic group. Which books would be universal favorites across all types of kids?