Quick Tip Tuesday: Independent reading and author studies

December 8th, 2009

In his book Good Choice, Tony Stead outlines strategies that foster successful independent reading in grades K-6. In this week’s Quick Tip, Tony talks about author studies as a way for students to reflect on their own story writing and to encourage reflection about their reading.

Specific author studies are a valuable means of strengthening students’ understandings of plot, setting, recurring themes, connections, and literary devices such as mood, voice, and author craft.

As a classroom teacher, each year I would select a specific author and provide my children with copies of the author’s books to explore. The author study would take from one to three weeks, and we would spend between twenty and thirty minutes daily studying the works of that author. The authors I chose depended on the suitability of their materials, which was based on the interests and the reading levels of my children. For instance, an author study on Eric Carle was terrific for first graders because most children were able to read his books independently, and many of his books were about animals and insects, which are of high interest to first-grade children. Note: Author studies can be on books that children cannot read independently. In this scenario, the teacher can read the author’s books to the children, which will provide the springboard for discussions.

First, I collect as many copies of the author’s publications as possible. In addition to publications I already own, I also collected books from the school library and my local public library. When implementing an author study be sure to have enough books for each child to have access to his or her own book. If this is not possible, then two children can share one book and the children can buddy read. An assortment of the author’s publications are best, rather than having twenty-seven copies of the same book, because I want my children to look for recurring themes and author craft. After I have amassed enough books, I place them into several baskets and label the baskets with the author’s name.

I begin the study by reading one of the books to the class to immerse them in the author’s works and promote discussions. After the reading, the children can talk about the book based on discussion areas I provide. I place these headings on a chart and record children’s observations.

Over the next few weeks, the children read different books by the selected author, either individually or in pairs. At the end of each session, I bring the children together to discuss what they have discovered and add their findings to the chart. For the section titled “About the Author,” the biographical details in the books, together with researching websites about the selected author, provide the children with a wealth of information.

It is also useful to write a class letter to the author and send this to the author’s publisher. I tell the children that the author may not reply because he or she is busy writing or illustrating new books, but we usually receive a letter from the publisher. Most well-known authors have someone to handle letters from children; sometimes a signed letter from the author will arrive. The children are thrilled when this occurs. This chart acts as a great springboard for children to examine their own story writing and the craft they are using to hook their readers. I also encourage children to conduct their own author studies of their favorite authors and give them an organizer to assist them with the task. Refer to Appendix H for a copy.

Discussion categories can vary and will differ depending on the grade area taught. I found that when conducting author studies with children in upper elementary school grades, the categories became more specific about the author’s craft and included mood, voice, use of suspense, recurring themes, character traits, and emotions the author evoked. For children in lower elementary school grades, the categories were simple and dealt primarily with likes, dislikes, reactions, and connections.

Entry Filed under: Quick Tip Tuesday,Reading

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Donna  |  September 18th, 2011 at 1:00 am

    Many thanks for taking time to write down this article. It is been rather helpful. It could not have come at a much better time for me!

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