Looking for an engaging read aloud for intermediate grade students? How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous (Bragg, 2011) and White House Kids: The Pleasures, Problems, and Pratfalls of the President’s Children (Rhatigan, 2012) might be good ideas. I like both of these book because they familiarize students with famous people, with a sense of change over time (both books tell stories in chronological order), and they both have clear main ideas.
How They Croaked (Bragg, 2011) is written with a sense of humor; what kid does not love gruesomeness? Bragg also reveals the idea that medicine and what we know about human ailments has evolved over time; unfortunately, there were some agonizing deaths along the way! This could serve as an anchor text for numerous lessons. I suggest reading it aloud, getting students interested, and then using a particular story about one famous person’s death to teach – maybe for loaded language, author’s tone, development of an idea, and so forth. Then additional excerpts could be used for small group reading and discussions. Another suggestion would be to post a timeline and the names of the famous people you read about as you go. OR you could just read this aloud for enjoyment. Bragg has a new book out next month – How They Choaked.
Each chapter in White House Kids (Rhatigan, 2012) deals with a different aspect of being a child in this unusual setting. Rhatigan’s main ideas include how it is a privilege to be a White House kid and how there are definitely drawbacks. Students will get a sense of how security (Secret Service and all) has changed over time as well as other aspects of these children’s lives. This is a great opportunity for students to become familiar with the presidents of the U.S. through a different lens. The anecdotes shared in each chapter are always in chronological order. I read this aloud to my daughter and, nearby, we kept a place mat with all of the presidents on it so she could refer to it and get a sense of where we were in the history of the U.S. as we went. Again – there are numerous ways to teach with this book and you could just read it aloud for enjoyment. I would definitely consider placing the pages on the document camera for students to view – lots of photographs of White House kids.
Another idea would be to suggest these to parents for reading this summer. Each of the books could easily be read by students who are fluent readers, but they make for good parent-child time as well.