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“Neither poverty nor a thousand misfortunes should deprive any child of a book, because books DO change lives. They did mine.” 

       -F. Isabel Campoy, Professor and Poet

This week we will learn from Lester Laminack, the Professor Emeritus from Western Carolina University, who writes curricular resources from Scholastic and teaches teachers how to “Make Every Moment Intentional and Instructional With Best Friend Books”. These descriptions and information are from his book, “The Ultimate Read Aloud Resource”. 

What is a Best Friend Book?

A BFB is a book with whom you have an immediate connection – you are drawn in to the story. Additionally, each visit to this story deepens your connection with it. It provides:

-New Phrases

-Concrete, Specific Nouns

-Well-Chosen, Precise Verbs

-Character Development

-Artful Description

-Balance of Dialogue and Narrative

-A Story Arc

-The Development of an Argument

-Well-Paced Text Structures

These gifts from the BFB deepen with time. They can be returned to again and again, and should be throughout the school year. These books can help children form deep connections with the story and with reading itself.

Imagine building up to the activities of Black History Month by creating a scaffolded, intentional group of read-aloud books for whichever age group you teach. Remember, no one is too old to have a book read aloud to them. It is a great treasure to share, not a treat reserved for small children. 

Imagine that each day, you spend another 5 or 10 minutes reading a new book that creates an image and language bank for the children.

Imagine that, without any other targeted instruction, your students are ready to learn about Martin Luther King, Jr. in February because they saw images and beautiful, attention-capturing phrases in January that brought them up to speed in the most age-appropriate and honest way. 

This would surely be a gift for your students. 

Let’s talk now about ways to choose, introduce, and then read BFBs in your classroom:

1. Choosing Best Friend Books:

A BFB should be all the things we discussed earlier: engaging, well-written, full of good content.

Here are some of Lester’s examples of BFBs:

All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan

Apt. 3 by Ezra Jack Keats

The Barn Owls by Tony Johnson

Birmingham 1963 by Carole Boston Weatherford

Come a Tide by George Ella Lyon

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

In November by Cynthia Rylant

Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins 

2. Introducing Best Friend Books:

“It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations- something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.”

-Katherine Peterson

Lester calls the first read of a book the “Movie Read“. This means that you don’t prep the students for what they will hear and see. You simply read. Just like, when you go to see a movie, you don’t want someone to give you 15 minutes of prep and description or interrupt you as you are watching to describe mechanics and special effects. You simply want to be taken in by the story. 

Interactive read-aloud experiences are important, but they are not always the appropriate way to read a book. This is the first visit of this BFB, and you want the students to be enticed to return. Let them dive in.

Later, you can focus on different things during the reading. You can point out grammar, or illustration, or story structure, or content connections, etc. You are an educator, you know how to draw meaning from text. 

3. Reading Best Friend Books: 

Here are a few tips from Lester for making each read-aloud experience as rich and valuable as you can:

Introduce the book before reading it, and afterwards, sit and think together about it for just a few minutes

Distinguish between the voices of the narrator and characters

-Ask meaningful questions– “What did you think of the story?” “What did you notice?” “How did the character change her mind?” “What made the character decide to do what she did?” “What do you think the character learned?”

Using BFBs in your classroom can become a lifelong experience that enriches your teaching practice and the lives of your students.

Which books changed your life? Which BFBs do you return to again and again? 

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