Real and Fake Chapter Books

SOLC 2011 10.31

The third grade class had just spent the last ninety minutes in Reading Workshop. It was time for a break to transition to the next activity. Coming from a small group, one boy proudly said, “I’m reading a REAL chapter book. It’s not a FAKE chapter book.” He said the word REAL with as much reverence as the bunny in The Velveteen Rabbit. Reading has not been easy for this one so his comment caught my attention as did the chapter book he held in his hand. I wanted to know more. “What is a REAL chapter book?” I asked. No hesitation in his answer. He thumbed through the pages of a Patricia Giff chapter book as he quipped, ” See the words. They are small. There are no pictures.”  My response was, “Well, then. What are FAKE chapter books?” No hesitation again. “They are books that you think are going to be chapter books but they are not. They are the same size on the outside but when you open them up, they are fake. The words are big. It is not really a chapter book. They trick you.”  Then off he happily went for his break. Much like the rabbit who hopped off to play with his new real friends, this third grader went out the door for his break. I’m happy for his new REAL book friends but I hope he doesn’t abandon those FAKE chapter books completely. A good dose of Frog and Toad, Henry and Mudge, and Pinky and Rex to name a few always brightens my day.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is a must have classic for your library. It was published in 1922. I like to place books in context of my family. My dad was born in 1921. I wonder if his mother read this gem to him. I wonder if this book was read to Kate DiCamillo. Did it play any part in her writing The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane?

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

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12 Responses to Real and Fake Chapter Books

  1. jee young says:

    I like how you compared the student to the bunny in the Velveteen rabbit! That’s so interesting how they distinguish between “real” and “fake” chapter books.

  2. Lisa says:

    This post makes me miss my classroom!

  3. quilt addict says:

    Oh, you are after my own heart…..I still remember buying that book for my own daughter…..I might love love love books almost as much as you do! Mimi

  4. likb says:

    I love the way you always make connections…with books, real life, and students. Thanks for your inspiration!

  5. Elizabeth E. says:

    I love this! REAL chapter books vs. FAKE chapter books. I’m with you–we need a dose of both. I introduced my (college) English class to graphic novels, with all their drawings. Some turned up their noses because “it looks so much like a comic book.” Others were thrilled and gathered around during the break to browse through the example I’d brought. A story is a story, I figure. And it takes all kinds!

    Elizabeth E.

    • Deb says:

      Elizabeth, I have found that readers have strong feelings about graphic novels. Some feel it is not real reading. I was totally surprised about this third grade had to say about chapter books. It was interesting! Thanks for your comments!

  6. Linda Baie says:

    Your comparison to the bunny is lovely, & it’s so nice that you pursued his line of thinking. Maybe some teachers miss out on those moments by skipping the next question? It is great when we are given those little slices of a child’s life.

  7. Leah says:

    I’m jealous that you have a reading workshop in your third grade class. I want that for my third grade son, but it’s nowhere to be found. How did you get so lucky?

    • Deb says:

      Leah, We have had Reading Workshop for the last three years. It’s been a journey…we had a traditional basal before that. We’re still figuring it out as we had to adopt a series that claims to be Reading Workshop and we are instructed to use it. After reading your reply, I’m thinking I should be counting our blessings. Not sure what will happen with all the mandates coming from our state. What does your son’s reading instruction look like? Thanks for your comments!

  8. Tam says:

    It’s wonderful how you connect kids to books and vice versa. I’m writing down all the names of the books you recommend in my book notebook.

  9. elsie says:

    You have a knack for making a great connection to books. Loved the conversation you had with this 3rd grader.

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