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How Sharing Whole Books Enhances Your Students' Reading Experience

March 9, 2020

By: Elizabeth Kelsey, Kendall Hunt RPD Intern, with contributions from the writing team of Pathways 2.0

The Pathways 2.0 reading and language arts program is built around award-winning, developmentally appropriate trade books that students love to read. These trade books include classics such as Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan and new bestsellers like Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water.

Many educators who have used our customized curriculum have praised the program’s use of whole books. “If you love great literature, real books, this language arts program is for you,” says homeschool mom Leah. “Instead of textbooks and watered-down readers, the kids are reading real books at every level of the program.” Here are six reasons why reading whole, living books as a class is successful in fostering a love of reading among young learners.

  1. It’s fun for learners

Homeschool mom Tiffany puts it best: “Instead of sitting down to read dull materials, Pathways utilize[s] fun and interesting books to inspire your child.” If you use a book with a compelling storyline to teach your students important language arts concepts, they’ll enjoy the learning much more than if they read staid and formulaic textbooks.

  1. It’s convenient for educators

When learning is based around a single shared (and award-winning) book, it’s easy for you, the educator, to keep track of your resources. Furthermore, you can be confident that your students are getting all the concepts they need to learn … without you having to go scrounging for other curriculum options to fill in the gaps. “I love how [the] Pathways Reading and Language Arts curriculum uses each unit’s book as the stepping stone for all the various language arts skills kids need,” says homeschool mom Sara. “You’re not juggling several readers or various programs trying to cover all your bases.”

  1. It helps students build their reading stamina

Reading stamina, according to educator Laura Robb, is “the energy and the concentration to focus on reading for at least thirty continuous minutes a day,” and it’s fostered with practice. The more that students are exposed to whole books, the more that they increase their stamina and prepare for higher-level coursework. Furthermore, sharing whole books as a class means that, according to educator Robert Ward, it’s okay for students to struggle. “With an arsenal of supports and scaffolds, evolving readers will gradually be able to interact with the text on an equal footing with their peers,” he explains. “This collective lesson in grit and growth mindset will then be carried over when these readers actually stick with their independent book choices and reap the rewards of reading entire novels on their own.”

  1. It provides a context for discussing and applying skills

Homeschool mom Jennifer loves how each unit of Pathways 2.0 “utilizes an award-winning anchor book to help provide context for applying the skills learned within the unit.” With a shared class book, learners can discuss the same concepts in the same context, and they can see those concepts in action over the course of a whole book, not just a short story or excerpt. Furthermore, whole books let teachers discuss multiple literary trait or skills within the context of the same story. That helps kids connect how those traits work together, but it can be hard to cram more than one topic into a single short-story lesson without overwhelming kids. Other skills, like predicting, are also difficult to use with excerpts, but through whole books, students can practice those strategies.

  1. It offers cross-curricular connections

“The use of trade books and living books as the backbone of the lesson plans makes it the perfect candidate for using as a thematic unit,” says homeschool mom Shelly. Using living books makes it easy to connect language arts lessons with other subjects, and we all know that one of the best ways to teach is through a story! Through the use of whole books, the class will learn and retain information about history (our Pathways 2.0 Yesterday theme) or science (our Environment theme) in ways they’ll enjoy.

  1. It leads to communal discussions

Most importantly, sharing a whole book helps students fall in love with reading—together. When they experience a story with their peers, as Ward explains, “a sense of community and scholarly inclusion is created … the experience becomes one of not just reading the book together but of collectively living the book.” Through Pathways 2.0, all learners can contribute to a collective narrative as they tackle a shared, whole book, which enriches their reading experience and strengthens their self-confidence.

What are your favorite examples of whole books? Which whole books have your students previously loved?