100 Monsters in My School
By Bonnie Bader; illustrated by Bryan Hendrix
Level readers that adapt and progress according to a child’s reading ability, vocabulary and interest level, have come a long way since the days of Dick and Jane. Mind you, I grew up with these reading level books that included the famous Dick, Jane, Sally and their cat and dog, Spot and Puff. I can still remember reading lines such as “See Dick. See Sally. See Jane.” And as the action increased in playground activities such as riding on swings, so too would the dialogue complexity shift, “See Jane go up up!” May sound a bit silly with the hindsight of 2016, but these level readers did the job of teaching very basic vocabulary and storyline and, for their time, did an excellent job teaching the fundamentals. In fact, many of the 77 million Baby Boomers learned to read this way! That’s probably why they are still in print and highly sought after as collectibles. Hey, I loved Pleasant Street where they lived!
But times change and so does the teaching of reading.
Enter Penguin Young Readers program that assigns a traditional easy-to-read level (1-4) as well as a Guided Reading Level (A-P). They offer great authors and illustrators, stories including favorite characters as well as nonfiction titles. The four levels are defined as:
Emergent Reader – Guided Reading Levels A-D
Progressing Reader – Guided Reading Levels E-I
Transitional Reader – More complex words, dialogue, points of view, storylines and characters
Fluent Reader – Guided Reading Levels N-P
Just in time for Halloween, I thought it would be fun to look at one of the themed stories from the Level 3 Transitional Reader.
In 100 Monsters in My School, meet Jane Brain who likes school, loves to read, can scarf down her favorite PB&J sandwiches, sings softly, but very high and likes gym where she walks the balance beam. Seems Jane likes just about everything about school, save one.
Jane does not like the 100th day of school, but the monsters, ahem, her other classmates, do. So does her teacher, Ms. Vampira, blessed with fanged teeth, but a kind nature. What is the reason for Jane’s jitters? On the 100th day each student must bring in 100 things for show-and-tell! To quote Ms. Vampira, “I want tomorrow to be spooktacular!”
It doesn’t help that her nemesis, Wendy Witchman, who usually dresses in all black, smirks to Jane that she, of course, has something very special to bring, as she tries to pry from Jane her idea for 100th day.
Jane consults the line of first resort – Mom, who has not a bat squeak of worry that Jane will come up with a great idea. Mrs. Brain is not the helicoptering sort! Lunchtime comes and goes with no fresh ideas on the horizon. Will Jane be jolted into reality? Hey, not if her friends Sally Spookster and Victor Fangly can rally the class to help. But will ole Wendy Witchman sneak up at the finale and ruin Jane’s rally?
Kids will be reading, counting and hoping right along with Jane to out maneuver the witchy Wendy. Seems to be one in every class.
These readers are fun, readable and ready to complement your child’s school reading materials. So watch out Wendy – Jane is coming on strong and so will your child with these modern alternatives to Dick and Jane. They’re great!
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