Pause for a moment and think about your favorite authors from childhood. Maybe it was Dr. Seuss or Gary Paulsen, or perhaps you loved Clifford and Curious George. As a reading specialist, I quickly developed a love of Patricia Polacco's work. The connection she forms to struggling readers is just huge. More important than connecting to them is the fact that with hard work and perseverance, she was able to overcome many of her challenges. This is huge for the type of students I've worked with. By the time students reach fourth and fifth grade, they often perceive themselves as failures and doubt things will ever get better. No matter how often we tell them that we believe in them and that they can do it, they've had too many setbacks to believe us. Sound familiar? If so, I would encourage you to begin working in her books.
The first book to start with must be Thank You Mr. Falker. This book sets the stage for the rest of her work. In it, Patricia shares how she learned that she had dyslexia. She did not learn to read until she was twelve years old I believe (so most children realize that their struggles may not be so bad). I can not read that book without tearing up, and I am sure you are likely the same. With this set, the skills I focused on were author's craft and visualizing. The writing prompt is focused on bucket filling.
Book two for me would be The Keeping Quilt. The reason I'd use this one second is that it gives more information about her family's immigration to the United States and her connections to Russia. If you read, Rechenka's Eggs, Chicken Sunday, Babushka's Doll and Christmas Tapestry, you'll certainly see that influence in the stories. You might explore the topic of immigration with paired nonfiction books about Ellis Island.
Once you've given your students a bit of background on her life, then the books will all fit together. Most will have bits of information tied to her life. My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother, Some Birthday, and When Lightning Comes in a Jar include Richie, Patricia's brother. With these titles, you might tie in descriptive writing about sibling relationships and family traditions.
Thunder Cake and the The Bee Tree include Patricia's grandparents (and probably other titles too). Most schools have Grandparent's Day, so you might use these around that time. I love How to Babysit Grandpa, and having kids write about their grandparents and special things they enjoy together is always fun.
Bully, Junkyard Wonders, The Art of Mrs. Chew, Mr. Wayne's Masterpiece, and Mr. Lincoln's Way all have connections to school experiences. They hit at different points in Patricia's life, and as I'm writing this up, I can not recall the order. You might preview them or check on Patricia Polacco's website [here] to learn more about each book as well as about her biographical information.
Patricia's books are not all tied to her life, but you'll see her writing style is consistent with unrelated titles too. I love the sweetness of For the Love of Autumn, and this book works well for most any child who loves animals. Another title I have enjoyed using with my students is Just Plain Fancy since most are unfamiliar with the Amish way of life. It provides an opportunity for students to learn cultural difference and appreciating each other.
I've shared a brief bit of information on my favorites, but what are yours? Maybe your list would be the same, or maybe you're favorite list would include a few others. I know one day I will add Pink and Say and Rechenka's Eggs to my list. I may also create something for Betty Doll. Oh, I just love her writing, and I hope you do too.
If you'd like to check out this author study in more detail, just click on the cover below.
For more ideas you can use or explore, check out the Patricia Polacco pinterest board I've started below.
Follow Comprehension's board Patricia Polacco Ideas on Pinterest.
Now, go and have a great weekend. It is cooling down here in Virginia, and I hear rumors we'll be in the teens next week. What??? I am just not ready for that!
Until next time, happy reading!
Until next time, happy reading!