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Braille Bug Reading Club





Purpose


The Braille Bug Reading Club has been established to encourage reading and discussion of high-quality literature by children who read print or braille. The amount of time that children spend reading is related to reading achievement, but even more important, literature can lead to "the exploration and illumination of life that can confirm or extend one's own life's experiences," as K. Smith puts it. All children need this type of opportunity to build concepts and understanding of the world around them. Talking about books can further develop their critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and understanding of the text.


The Reading Club stimulates "book talk" through its on-line discussion area. Its aim is to enable children from different parts of the country or the world to exchange ideas about specific books. Students can share, as Aidan Chambers puts it,"enthusiasms, puzzles, and connections," they make between the book and other parts of their lives with others who have read the same book. The on-line format has the added benefit of reinforcing the use of technology, writing skills, and (for children who are visually impaired) the use of assistive technology devices.


The Braille Bug Reading Club will also promote the idea that children who are blind or visually impaired are more like their sighted peers than they are different. Whether the book is read in braille or print, whether it was obtained at the library, the bookstore, or over the Internet, the children can respond equally and authentically.


How the Braille Bug Reading Club Works


Every few months, two different books will be featured, one for children who are reading at the 2nd to 3rd grade level, and one for older students reading at the 4th to 6th grade level. The books will be selected based on several criteria: The books must be easily obtainable in both print (preferably in paperback) and in braille (or via Web-braille, through the Library of Congress); the books must be considered "high quality" as recognized by an award or citation (such as a Newbery winner, American Library Association Notable book, or International Reading Association Children's Choice); and the books should commonly appear on state adoption lists for literature.


Children will read the featured book and post their thoughts to other students on the Braille Bug Reading Club message board about their reactions and questions about the book. The goal is for the students to go beyond a simple reporting of the plot or emotional reaction (e.g., "I liked it" or "I hated it"), and to make personal connections and reflections, inferences, interpretations, and evaluations of the book.


The Teachers' Role in the Braille Bug Reading Club


Quality book discussions don't just happen as part of the reading process; they have to be taught to children. Teachers and parents can model this by asking and responding to open-ended questions, and by encouraging students to reflect and respond to the book from their own experience. The following are some strategies that may help you and your students get the most out of the Reading Club:


Getting Started


1. Read the featured book with the students.


2. Engage the students in an off-line discussion about the book. You may find the list of suggested questions at the end of this message helpful as you plan the discussion. Use the students' responses as a basis to expand their appreciation of the book and to teach new ways of understanding it. For example, if you notice that the students are only retelling the plot, start a discussion that leads them to focus on the characters, make predictions, draw inferences, or connect story events and characters to their own experiences or to other books they have read.


3. Post a question that generated rich discussion among your students on the website and have some or all of them write their responses. Participate in the on-line discussion yourself and model different kinds of responses that will lead to more in-depth conversations.


4. Review the on-line responses from other students with your class and use them to generate further questions; or, continue the discussion with a different thought-provoking question.


Enriching the Experience


Here are some suggestions for making your class's on-line book discussions even more productive:


• Look for "teachable moments" within the discussions to bring out and expand features of the story. For example, if the students ask questions relating to the setting of a book, get out the atlas and locate the town or country in which the story takes place if that will lead to greater understanding.


• Look for opportunities to develop cultural sharing and exchange of ideas and traditions through the context of the story. This can especially occur when students are in geographically different areas.


• Allow enough time in your schedule for book talks to develop online. Messages can be drafted by students and saved to be posted to the message boards at a later date, which can reduce the amount of time your students actually spend online.


• A "tell me" approach is an effective way to jump start your book talk. You can ask your students—and they can ask each other—the following kinds of questions to encourage them to clarify their ideas and to stimulate good discussions. (See Aidan Chambers' Tell Me: Children, Reading, and Talk, for further information and a complete list of suggested questions.)

Was there anything you like about this book?
Was there anything you disliked?
Was there anything that puzzled you?
Were there any patterns or connections that you noticed?
What kind of book did you think this was going to be?
Did the book turn out as you expected? How was it different?
Has anything that happens in this book ever happened to you?
Which character interested you the most?



We hope that you and your class will enjoy meeting other students through the Braille Bug Reading Club and find it an enriching experience. We welcome your comments and suggestions, which may be sent to braillebug@afb.net.


Bibliography


Chambers, A. (1996) The reading environment: How adults help children enjoy books. York: Maine: Stenhouse Publishers


Chambers, A. (1996) Tell Me: Children, Reading, and Talk. York: Maine: Stenhouse Publishers


Jody, M. & Saccardi, M. (1997) Teachable moments online. Presentation at the International Reading Association


Short, K.G. & Pierce, K.M. (Eds.) (1998) Talking about books: Literature Discussion Groups in K-8 Classrooms. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Books


Smith, K. (1998) Entertaining a text: A reciprocal process. In Kathy Gnagey Short and Kathryn Mitchell Pierce (Eds.) Talking about books: Literature Discussion Groups in K-8 Classrooms. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Books


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