From the Office of the Future of Reading*

I thought it apropos to ask Colby Sharp, the ultimate Nerdster, to kick off the new school year here on my blog. 

Each Tuesday and Thursday, one of 84 (!!!) volunteer teachers/librarians/reading coaches from all over the world will share their thoughts about connecting kids and books. This is a continuation of a project I launched last year, which proved incredibly rewarding, heartwarming, inspiring and thought-provoking. 

Colby was the first teacher I interviewed in 2012. I am grateful that he’s humored me by writing this year’s inaugural post!

The very un-enthusiastic Mr. Colby Sharp

For the first time in my teaching career I am switching grades. I’ll be moving from fourth grade to third grade. This move terrifies me. I’m not afraid of change, but it does make me very uncomfortable. I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to read books that I think my third graders will enjoy. Books that will help them develop the passion for reading that so many of my fourth graders have developed the last 6 years.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the books that I loved as a third grade reader. What I’ve found is that I remember very few books. What I remember are the characters. I remember when Ms. Frey introduced us to Ramona in third grade, and Mrs. Collins showed me Peter and Fudge in fourth grade. They both showed me characters from Roald Dahl’s books: The BFG, Charlie, and James.

I am hoping that I can introduce my students to characters that will stick with them for as long as the characters Ms. Frey and Mrs. Collins introduced me to back in the day. If we can help our young readers fall for a couple of characters, an author, or a series, we give them an opportunity to fall madly in love with books.

As I start to think about what books I will read aloud to my third graders here are a few characters that I cannot wait to introduce them to:

Marty Mcguire
Kate Messner has created a dynamite character in Marty that kids are crazy about. If I can get kids to fall in love with Marty, chance are they will find other books by Kate Messner that they will enjoy.

Ralph S. Mouse
Okay, I have no idea if kids will love this book as much as I did when I was in third grade, but by-golly I am going to give it a go. I’m not sure that I want to live in a world where The Mouse and the Motorcycle isn’t a book kids fall in love with.

Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee have created a chapter book character that I feel could be recognized  year after year by the big children’s literature awards. Pure brilliance.

Peter and Fudge
A kid that makes it through third grade without bing introduced to Judy Blume’s well crafted characters has been failed by public education. Okay, maybe I’m going a little far there, but kids need to know her characters.

I haven’t decided for sure if I’m going to read my third graders Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. It is one of those books that I feel like I need to know my kids first. If I find that they are ready, and that I’m ready, I will share with them the mighty silverback gorilla that has captured so many of our hearts.

How about you? What characters are you looking forward to sharing with young readers this year? You never know, they may end up being a character that stays with that reader for the rest of their life.

Colby Sharp

*Thank you to Levi for the title for this blog feature!

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