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He Who Dreams - The Importance of High Interest Books

For years, when I taught whole class novels I often felt stuck when it came to supporting struggling readers. Asking them to independently read a text that was beyond their current abilities clearly didn't work. Reading chapters aloud was an option, but relying on this strategy robbed them of the opportunity to work through a text independently and hone their reading skills through practice.

I have since abandoned whole class novels in favour of literature circles. By selecting a variety of books at varying levels, reluctant readers have a better opportunity to participate and ultimately improve their reading abilities. I have found High Interest/Low Readability books particularly useful. These are texts designed with struggling readers in mind. The vocabulary and text is at a lower reading level, while the content is geared towards teens. These texts are useful for keeping the attention of reluctant readers and building success.

One book I'm particularly interested in implementing is He Who Dreams, by Melanie Florence. The novel is about John, a teen who has a Cree mother and an Irish father. While he more physically resembles his dad, he is drawn to an Indigenous dance class. He quickly learns how to perform these cultural traditions, only to face teasing from both his friends and other dancers who don't view him as Cree. The book deals with issues of racism and identity. I particularly liked the frank discussion of how John and his sister experience discrimination and feel connected to their identity in different ways. The Frye readability level is 4.3, but the content is intended for students in middle school and young teens. (If there was any doubt of the suggested age level, the couple of minor swears in the text would quickly make it clear.) The book will be a useful addition to literature circles that focus on identity and being true to yourself.

Ellen Bees

Ellen Bees

I am a middle school teacher with a passion for sustainability and human rights. Opinions are my own.

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