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Why every teacher should read Patricia Polacco books

Homepage Forums Brain-Based Learning Q&A Why every teacher should read Patricia Polacco books

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    • #72036

      The Christmas Tapestry, Thank you Mr. Falker, The Bee Tree, Pink and Say, Mrs. Mack…these are a few of my favorite children’s books by Patricia Polacco. As a literacy specialist, I understand the power of story and Patricia Polacco does it as well as anyone. Using stories from her own life she invites the reader to connect to the characters in personal ways. This connection is one of the components of good comprehension teaching – making “text to self” (along with “text to text” and “text to world”) connections that can develop literacy skills, improve academic performance, and open learning doorways. I found this to be true in sharing “Thank you, Mr. Falker” with my undergrad teacher candidates in the reading and literacy methods courses I have taught over the years. Many of them identify with Trisha, the protagonist in the story who has dyslexia, and realize that the students they are working with who are also struggling readers may also be capable of great things with the right kind of teaching. Trisha (really Patricia as this is autobiographical of her struggles with dyslexia and the teacher who changed her life) inspires these future teachers to be as good as Mr. Falker, and we all cry as we finish the book and read the end note from Patricia of her seeing Mr. Falker years later and telling him that she now writes books for children. Reading aloud to students (of any age) can improve their vocabulary, reading interest, and comprehension strategies…and also inspire them to continue developing as learners and people.
      What are you favorite Patricia Polacco books? If you are new to this gifted and prolific storyteller/author/illustrator I encourage you to visit her website at

    • #72669
      AvatarCraig Carson

      Who wouldn’t want to read Patricia Polacco books? She has some of my favorites over the years. When considering what her books do for a classroom, I find her to be very helpful. An issue that I have with her texts is that they are so long. My recommendation for teachers is to read through it at some point and then revisit it over and over in mini-lessons—just a page or two or a particular section (for modeled skill work) at a time. Lester Laminak (2006) talks about the 6 opportunities for a read aloud in Learning Under the Influence of Language and Literature. I can see how her newest text (mentioned below) would fit in several of his categories. Within the brain-world, we embrace his opportunity 6 which has to do with episodic memory and carrying over the story from one day to the next. I don’t think that this would be a good one for that. But, the others fit nicely.

      Her latest book, Because of Thursday (2016), is a delightful ficational text that is on (or will be on) several text lists for 2016. I know it is a candidate for at least one that I serve on related to social studies.

      The power of Because of Thursday: The text can be used in multiple ways as a classroom teacher. When I think about using it in my brain-friendly lens—how grief can affect someone synergistically and how investing in the lives of others helps people to change their mindset. In regard to the social studies/literacy connection, the text fits great into a theme set about relationships. It also touches on community mindedness. There are many ways a literacy teacher could include this text in their stellar texts list. It can be a model for many great crafting techniques or traits—great text features (capitals for emphasis, ellipses, marked dialogue, vocabulary / colloquialism, wrap-up ending, and more…). Along the lines of reading comprehension strategies, this text can be used for connections, questions, determining importance, and synthesis. Literal (comprehension) right there questions can be asked in numerous places, but it is also good for thick questions that aim at inferential and evaluative comprehension.

      What other texts do people recommend?

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