Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Introducing the Yellow Brick Road

Ben and I have continued to read chapter books at bedtime.  During the day we stick to regular children's picture books - he still prefers ones about cars, planes, and trains - and I think it's important for him to have the simpler shorter stories, and to sort-of follow along as I'm reading (though I have started reading "I Can Read" books to him - more on that in another post!).  But at night we have really enjoyed our foray into chapter books.  We usually read for about twenty minutes - what we are able to get through definitely varies.  I spend about a minute each night recapping where we are in the story, asking him if he remembers what the characters are doing, and what he thinks might happen next.  Then we dive in.  Some nights he just listens to the story.  Other nights he asks A LOT of questions.  Sometimes the questions make me wonder if he is comprehending anything about the story, and other times he makes it quite clear that he has been thinking about what the characters are doing.  On some really great nights he will make a comment like, "Hey, mom, that's just like in that other book we read, remember?" and we'll have a good conversation about actual themes and ideas in the book.

Right now we are reading L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Ben has a recent fascination with natural disasters, so the fact that the book starts out with a cyclone hooked him right away. For the most part, the story has been really easy for Ben to follow, and he has been assisted by the pictures in the illustrated version that we borrowed from the library.

In about the fifth/sixth grade I spent a couple months reading through all fourteen books in the Oz Series.  But, I have to admit that most of my recollections about the story come from the movie.  I remember it being pretty scary, so I have been happy so far to see that the book itself is relatively tame.  While we probably won't read all the books in the series one after another, I think it will be fun to have so many books about a familiar land to turn to whenever we want something new.

Ben also really likes maps.  Not just regular maps where we look at countries or states - he likes those, but he seems to really enjoy maps that look like they are hand-drawn, and have detail about where certain characters live, and that we can look at periodically to see where the characters are at a certain point in the story.  The Land of Oz is perfect for this - the book we have does not include a map, but I found this on-line and Ben likes to refer to it at the beginning of each new chapter.

What I also love about introducing Ben to The Wizard of Oz is that I feel like references to the book are EVERYWHERE.  He is certain to see a few Dorothys at Halloween.  One year, we had the most adorable girl come to our door dressed as Dorothy.  Her little brother was the Lion, her dad the Tin Man, and her mother a Scarecrow.  And after she took her candy, she opened her little wicker basket and her real-life tiny black terrier - actually named Toto - popped his head out!

Of course by now most people have seen the musical Wicked (if not, please go if you can, it is so absolutely wonderful!!), but I am also a huge fan of the book it was based on (Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire), as well as the sequels, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz.

If you're looking for some chapter book inspiration, I came across this list of 101 Best Chapter Books last night.  There are some oldies but goodies on here, as well as some I've never heard of but am excited to check out!

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