One of the things that I think could have been fairly said of me as a teacher in the elementary school is this. If your child still needs to learn how to read, Mr. Ash was not the best fit. But if your child still needs to learn how to LOVE to read, then he's your man. And one of the things that I loved to do with my students was read to them. My last year in the classroom was 2005-06, and I chose to read the works of Andrew Clements as my focus author.
We started with his iconic "Frindle" which if you haven't read it--just do it! It's a lovely story. From there we worked our way through "A Week In The Woods," "The Janitor's Boy," my all time favorite of his "School Story," "The Landry News," and early into it when the Scholastic Book Fair came and brought us his newest work "Lunch Money". The thing about his books is that, yes they are formulaic in their underlying theme, but it's such a wonderful formula. They always deal with an adult who's somehow jaded or burdened...uninspired by their life. And a kid who becomes the reason why they rediscover their joy. It's such a simple premise, but perfect for the 8 to 11-year-old crowd who are themselves on the cusp of assuming their sense of purpose in the world and feeling very confused and oppressed by it. The books suggest a power that they can have that is very compelling.
In "Lunch Money" the kids take on creating their own publishing company for comic books as part of the plot. This was something that really intreged my kids. Never one to loose a teachable moment, I turned it into a mini-unit on how books are physically made and how authors have to create stories that fit into a certain number of pages and how those gallies are designed and then actually printed. From there I created a set of templates and sent them on their way! Suddenly, every spare moment was given over to writing and illustrating and in some cases collaborating on ideas and co-authoring stories. And once a set of gallies was completed, I printed the mini-book (1/4 of a piece of paper) in a run sufficient to give copies to everyone else in the class and a few extras to the author to distribute to family and friends not in our class. Before I knew it, every desk had a mini-library of mini-books, and when they weren't working on their latest story, they were just reading and re-reading the books of their peers.
While cleaning this evening, I ran across a copy of one of those little books. I give you for your enjoyment "Spaceball" by Stephan M. This is the joy of being a teacher!