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Topic 1: Books For Learning/Books For Enjoyment

In this first week of our journey, we will share some basic philosophy which will provide a framework for the entire journey.

The first issue is repeated readings. When children are allowed to select stories to read with partners, they frequently choose to read the same ones over and over again, sometimes to the dismay of parents or other reading partners. A number of studies have shown that interactive, repeated storybook readings have a positive impact on literacy (see Emergent Literacy Success, Chapter 1, for a review).

Some children, and especially children who are nonspeaking, may not have enough opportunities for repeated readings at home. Therefore, many interventionists have chosen to develop natural learning activities around storybook centered themes, choosing a storybook to use as the "core" for several weeks of activities (Hoggan & Strong, 1994; King-DeBaun, 1990; Norris & Hoffman, 1995a, 1995b).

How do we select books to serve as core books for storybook centered themes?

We distinguish between two basic categories of books, relative to the overall purpose of book use. Books For Learning represent books selected for repeated readings, serving as the core of the theme. Shared reading experiences, development of literacy-related extension activities, and communication/language learning goals will focus on the Book For Learning.

Books for Enjoyment include books intended to enrich the curriculum, help develop world knowledge, and support the current Book For Learning. Thus, these books will not be offered for multiple readings, unless requested by students.

In keeping with the concept of storybook centered thematic learning, a core storybook - a Book For Learning - becomes the focus for activities, with thematically related learning opportunities designed to support a range of learning goals.

What are the implications for students with disabilities?

The interventionist following a storybook-centered thematic approach will use a vocabulary set derived from the target story for most activities throughout the day. This technique offers students with low verbal skills and students with limited access to vocabulary, including augmentative communicators, opportunities to learn and use the new vocabulary in a variety of situations. They are able to experience success across daily activities.

Using a storybook-centered approach also provides students with a "comfort zone," with familiar vocabulary appearing for multiple activities, rather than new vocabulary for each activity, as happens when using unrelated activities.

So, how do we identify these "Books for Learning" for our students?

Suggested lists of "good" books for various developmental ages abound, such as those provided by Cullinan (1989, 1993), Eisle (1991), and Maehr (1991). However, some of these books will have features that will not match the literacy learning needs of your students.

We have developed a Books For Learning Checklist to guide your selection of core storybooks. See an example of how we filled it in for the book "Dirty Duds," written by Pati as part of her Storytime series.

Could we see a few examples of each type of book, and how they might be used for students at different learning stages?

In our book, "Emergent Literacy Success," we review many Books for Learning and Books for Enjoyment, as well as Poetry Anthologies and Books for Drama. See a few samples in Caroline and Pati's Favorite Books for Learning and Books for Enjoyment.

What does it mean if books we like do not turn out to be Books for Learning?

Sometimes you will find that books which are delightful and greatly enjoyed by children and staff alike do not fit the "Books for Learning" criteria. Does this mean you should abandon them? Absolutely not! It just means that these books might be better used as "Books for Enjoyment," as the language may be overwhelming for purposes such as story retelling, especially for children with severe disabilities.

Offline Challenge

If you are taking this tour as a group, why not use the checklist as a small-group task with a couple of your favorite books. Then have each participant take a different book, use the checklist, and share information. Remember that you are trying to match the literacy and language needs of your class.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998.

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