What is your favorite picture in the book? Why? What does it remind you of? What special details do you notice? What feelings or moods are created by the picture? How would you describe the style of the picture? Mark your favorite picture with a Post-it note.
Find some phrases or sentences in the book that you especially like. Why do you like these phrases or sentences? Mark your favorite sentences with a Post-it note.
Can you and your partner find any new expressions that you learned from reading this book?
Grandma’s Records: A Review10
Discussion Questions for When You Have Finished the Whole Book
What is the title of the book? Who was the author of the book? Who
was the illustrator? What was the name of the boy in the book?
How old do you think Eric is? What makes you think that?
Where does the story take place?
What are some words you could use to describe the personality or character of the grandmother?
5. What are some words you could use to describe Eric’s personality or character?
What was the first song the band played? What was the last song the band played?
What did Grandma think about when she played her special song? [Be careful of possessive pronouns!]
Find a sentence that shows what a good imagination Eric had.
What kind of job do you think Eric had when he grew up? (Are there any clues in the book?)
Why do you think the band stopped at grandmother’s house? What is the reason that is given directly in the text? What other reasons can you think of? What do you think is most likely?
Look at the page that has the picture of the outside of the theater. It says Grandma was nervous the whole ride. Make a list of all the possible reasons she was nervous. Which do you think is most likely? See if you can find any clues (evidence) in the book.
Why did Grandma say “Ay, Dios mio” when the concert was about to start?
Why did everyone do the same thing when the band sang the last song? How do you know?
How would you describe the theme (or the most important idea) of the song “Mi Viejo San Juan?
How would you describe the theme (or the most important idea) of the book Grandma’s Records?
Making Connections to the Text: Writing Activity#1 11
Pick something in the book that made you think of something in your own life. Write about what you read (or saw in a picture) in the story that brought that connection to mind. Then write about what thoughts or feelings or memories it brought up for you. (I will do it too.)
Making Connections to the Text: Writing Activity#212
What do the different pictures of grandma dancing alone show?
Think about what grandma says, “Sometimes, a song can say everything that is in your heart as if it was written just for you.” Think of a song that makes you feel that way. Write down your favorite part of the song (in English or in Spanish)—the one that you connect with most. Then write about why you feel that this song says everything that is in your heart.
Look for the times in the book when Spanish is used. Why do you think Spanish is used in these cases.
Why does the picture on page 9 look so different than the other pages? (bright green background) Why did the illustrator choose to make it so different?
Grandma’s Records: Present and Past Tense Verbs PresentPast
Drop off Dropped off
Pick up Picked up
Grow up Grew up
A Book List: Books Which Work for the Deep Reading Approach13
Tomas and the Library Lady, by Pat Mora. This is a moving story of a child of migrant workers who discovers the joys of reading and the world of the imagination when a librarian takes him under her wing. Google Images can help set the context. When you read the back cover, you discover that it is a true story and the boy, Tomas, went on to become the Chancellor of a California university.
Running the Road to ABC by Denize Lauture. This book is written by a Haitian poet so the language is complex and would normally be a challenge for ESOL students. However, the illustrations are incredibly clear, beautiful, and evocative so even beginning ESOL students can connect. What became a vital tool for this book was creating picture dictionaries to go with the books. Using Google Images, one can get great pictures from a Haitian context.
Circles of Hope by Karen Lynn Williams. This is a simpler book, not by a Haitian author, that raised good discussion with the parents about the problems of deforestation in Haiti.
Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter. English, Spanish and Creole-speaking parents have all loved this book which focuses on Sotomayor’s childhood, growing up in a housing development in the South Bronx. It’s a bilingual book—so teachers of Spanish speakers have to decide if they want parents to have access to both languages on the first read or not.
Thank You, Mr.Falker by Patricia Polacco. This is a wonderful book about a child with learning disabilities. It’s longer and more complex than either Grandma’s Records or Tomas and the Library Lady, but parents have loved it and it has generated great discussions.
Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull . This is a true story. Parents have loved the story of all the challenges Wilma Rudolph faced—polio, racism, and poverty.
ACTIVITY #9: Having a family reading night14
Even parents who read to their young children on a regular basis often stop doing so once their children become readers themselves. While this happens in many families, it is particularly likely to happen when children of immigrant parents read English so much more easily than do their parents. However, even as children become capable of independent reading, they lack the life experience necessary to make deep connections to what they read. Family reading nights, which can be structured in a myriad of ways, present an opportunity for parents and children to have conversations about what they are reading and to model both the value of reading and the value of family time. In addition, they can help support children in maintaining their first language.
Students will make a plan on how to implement a Family Reading Night
Handout: Some Tips for Family Reading Nights at Home
Handout: Making a Plan for Family Reading Night
Ask students to write down at least one family activity they do on a regular basis and share those. If you have done the previous unit, You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, refer back to Activities #5 and #6 which focus on family activities. Probably a Family Reading Night will not be among the activities listed.
Via a show of hands, determine whether there is a drop off in students reading to their children once they reach first or second grade. Ask parents why this might be so. The reason given will probably be, “They can read themselves now.”
Using an example from a children’s book parents are familiar with, explain that while children can often read the words themselves (decoding), they don’t necessarily comprehend what they are reading. For example, in Grandma’s Records, by Eric Velasquez, a richly textured book referred to in the previous activity, the grandmother says, “Sometimes, a song can say everything that is in your heart as if it was written just for you.” Ask parents whether their seven year olds would understand that. Ask what those words mean to them, and whether they can share an example of a song that has a lot of memories and meanings for them. Explain that this is what you mean when you say parents need to continue reading with older kids also so they can share their life experiences and thus help their children understand what they are reading.
Write Family Reading Night on the board and ask students what they think that means. Make a distinction between a family reading night and a parent reading to one child, perhaps before that child goes to bed. Remind parents of the concept of being reading role models for their children.
Do a group brainstorm around the questions, What are some different ways parents and children can read together? Supplement the list students generate so it includes:
Parents read to children in English
Parents read to children in their first language
Shared reading: parents read one page, children read the next page
Using bilingual books: child reads English text, parent reads other language text
Everyone in the family reads independently
Stress that whatever model chosen, talking together about the book is key. Have parents chose the approach from the list they think will work best with their family and write that down in their notebooks.
Distribute and read together the handout: Some Tips for Family Reading Nights at Home. (Note: this text is probably too wordy for beginning level students.) Then have parents go back, reread the text silently in class or as homework, and circle the tip they think is most important. As they share what they have chosen, ask them to explain their choices.
Distribute the handout: Making a Plan for Family Reading Night. Ask students to fill it out individually and circulate to talk to them about their plans. At the end, ask students when they will start their Family Reading Nights. Write responses on an easel pad and check back with students in the ensuing days.
Do Activities #5 and #6 in Unit 1: You Are Your Child’s First Teacher (Topic: Supporting Children’s Learning), for additional activities on educational ways families can spend time together.
Handout: Some Tips for Family Reading Nights at Home15
Most important to remember is that you want this to be a fun and quality time for your family to spend together. What would make it fun and something to look forward to? Snacks? Acting out the story? Having soft music in the background? Sitting on cushions on the floor? Sitting on laps?
I know this may be hard for a lot of people these days, but I strongly consider asking everyone to “unplug” during Family Reading Time. This means no one (adults, children, or teens) should be texting or even answering the phone unless it’s an emergency. You want to make this a connecting time for your family.
Try to get everyone in your family to participate—this can include grandparents, children of all ages, men as well as women, etc. Make sure all the adults in your household have “bought in” to being there, turning off screens, and participating enthusiastically. The adults need to set the tone for the family. If there is an adult in the household who doesn’t participate, it will make it a lot harder to get all the kids to take part.
Engage your family in deciding the best day, time, and place to hold your family reading night (or afternoon). Write this into a family calendar and ask everyone to put it on their individual calendars so that everyone is sure to set this time aside as an important and valuable way of spending time together. Make sure to remind each other!
Consistency is very important in establishing any new routine or tradition in your family. Try to stick to your plan every week if at all possible. If something comes up that interferes, decide on another day to reschedule your family reading night. Commit to never missing two weeks in a row!
Especially for the first time or two, make sure to pick some books (maybe shorter ones) that you are sure everyone (adults and children) in your family will enjoy. You want to be sure that this is something that everyone will look forward to.
Vary the activities from time to time to keep things fresh. One week you might want to have everyone bring a book to the dinner table and read silently for 20 minutes before sharing with each other. Another time, you might want to plan and create a dinner related to the theme of the book (as some adult book groups do) or decorate the room so that it reflects the setting of the story. The whole family can cook or decorate together.
You can find books that engage people of all ages (like a children’s picture book biography of Sonia Sotomayor or another person your family admires) and all read and discuss the book together. Or, everyone can sit in the living room and read their own books, with adults or older children reading to young ones who can’t read yet. If everyone is reading their own books, they should be encouraged to interrupt each other to say, “Listen to this,” as they share a passage that is funny, scary, sad, moving, etc. Or you can all read on your own for 30 minutes or so, and then have a planned sharing time at the end.
There are many movies based on books. Read the book first, discuss it as a family, and then watch the movie (with popcorn?). When it’s over, talk about the differences between the book and the movie and which each person liked better.
Make it a special activity to go to the library together and try to get as many family members as possible to go along. (If a dad or an uncle or a teenager is a reluctant participant in the Family Reading Night, it may be particularly important to have them go to the library with you and help select the books!) Choose a day that will regularly be your family’s library day.
Stay focused on your family and your reading time together. If you keep getting up to check on dinner, it will disrupt your family time. It also is hard for children and teens to put their other interests (like text messaging!) aside if the parents don’t model this.
Some people like to read aloud and some don’t. I’d suggest that you not insist that anyone take a turn. It is fine if a parent or an older child reads to the whole group or if people take turns. It is also fine if some people sketch or color while they’re listening, as long as it doesn’t take away from their concentration on the book. One friend of mine has been reading to her daughter for years (until she was in middle school) and what the child loved was to do a jigsaw puzzle while her mother read her a chapter book! Try to set as few rules as possible (except for participation and unplugging) so that it is relaxed time for everyone.
Even though your elementary or middle school child can read on his or her own, it remains very important to read and discuss books together. Children need to develop an ability to reflect on what they are reading, make personal connections to the text, think about the characters, and be aware of when and where the story takes place. They need to gain confidence in expressing their ideas about the book. All of this happens best when they are reading and talking about books with those they love the most!
Handout: Making a Plan for Family Reading Night16 A PLAN FOR FAMILY READING “NIGHTS” FOR THE ________________________ FAMILY
On a scale of 1-10, how important is it to you to have a regular family reading time at home? ________
1 (It’s not too important)
10 (It’s a top priority)
The day The time
Names and ages of children and teens who will participate:
Relationships of adults who will participate (mother, father, grandmother, uncle, etc.)
Scheduling conflicts: If your whole family or one person has something else to do at your scheduled family reading time, what will you do?
Will it be hard to implement your plan? In what ways?
What are some possible ways to address these difficulties?
Will your whole family read and discuss a book together or will you each read your own book—and then share something about your books at the end? What languages will you read books in?
1 Chart Developed by Constance Devanthery-Lewis, ENB Parent ESOL Teacher
2 Form developed by Lisa Garrone, Program Coordinator/Parent ESOL teacher, ABCD/Southside Headstart
3 Adapted from A Guide to Family Literacy for ESOL Teachers and Parent Educators, Community Learning Center, Cambridge, MA, 2007.
4 Adapted by Alice Levine, Family Education Curriculum Specialist, Department of Family and Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools, from 7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It! By Susan Zimmermann and Chryse Hutchins
5 Adapted by Alice Levine, Family Education Curriculum Specialist, Department of Family and Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools, from 7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It! By Susan Zimmermann and Chryse Hutchins
6 Developed by Alice Levine, Family Education Curriculum Specialist, Department of Family and Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools.
7 Developed by Alice Levine, Family Education Curriculum Specialist, Department of Family and Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools.
8 Developed by Alice Levine, Family Education Curriculum Specialist, Department of Family and Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools.
9 Developed by Alice Levine, Family Education Curriculum Specialist, Department of Family and Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools.
10 Developed by Alice Levine, Family Education Curriculum Specialist, Department of Family and Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools.
11 Developed by Alice Levine, Family Education Curriculum Specialist, Department of Family and Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools.
12 Developed by Alice Levine, Family Education Curriculum Specialist, Department of Family and Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools.
13 Compiled and annotated by Alice Levine, Family Education Curriculum Specialist, Department of Family and Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools.
14 Adapted from a workshop done in 2014 by Alice Levine, Family Education Curriculum Specialist, Department of Family and Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools.
15 Alice Levine, Family Education Curriculum Specialist, Department of Family and Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools.
16 Alice Levine, Family Education Curriculum Specialist, Department of Family and Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools.