Learning to read is a complex process, one that does not come easily to all children. Some children will struggle to read and become reluctant readers.
Hi lo books can help generate interest in reading and improve these children’s reading abilities. Hi lo books are engaging and easier to read, and they show kids that reading does not have to be a chore.
Somewhere in the Middle
For reluctant readers, reading books that pique their interests, but are too complex for their reading abilities, can be a discouraging undertaking that makes them dislike reading. On the other hand, handing them books with subject matter that isn’t age appropriate, like Clifford the Big Red Dog, will just embarrass them.
Providing hi low books is an important part of improving reading skills and fostering a love of reading in reluctant readers. Hi low books offer highly interesting, age-appropriate stories that grab the readers’ interests, but at lower readability levels that are accessible. For example, some books may be targeted to readers in high school but have a reading level of third or fourth grade.
High interest consists of content that children of that age would want to read on their own and learn more about without intervention from teachers and parents. Some of the topics that tend to keep children captivated include animals, mysteries, adventure, and sports. Low reading level means the children will be able to grasp the story and keep reading the book on their own with little difficulty.
What Makes a Book Hi Lo?
Hi lo books share similar characteristics. First, these books offer realistic characters, convincing text, and age-appropriate subject matter that is interesting and enticing.
The vocabulary used is controlled. The text is non-complex. The sentences are simpler and shorter. The chapters, too, are shorter, and they tend to focus on short episodes in the plot. The plots are usually linear, without difficult structure or flashbacks. Often, the story is told in the first person. Furthermore, you’ll see a lot more dialogue and very little descriptive text to keep engagement high.
Hi lo books are also shorter in length. This increases children's confidence when picking up the book. And if they can read it in its entirety and like what they’ve read, they won’t be discouraged from picking up another.
Design also comes into play. You’ll typically see more white space, a larger font, a cream-coloured paper, and more leading between lines. These design elements are strategically included in order to help reluctant readers focus.
Uses of Hi Lo Books
Hi lo books are most often used in schools, where interventions for reluctant readers are most likely to occur. There is a wide variety of curriculum-related titles as well as teacher’s guides and workbooks to support the titles for their use in schools. In addition, it isn’t uncommon to find these books in school libraries and in book clubs, buddy reading situations, and tutor situations.
And though the school market is the largest for these types of books, they’re also available at bookstores in order to foster a love of reading at home as well. In addition, more and more adults with literacy issues, or those learning English as a second language, are beginning to seek out hi lo books, making them highly valuable in a wide variety of contexts.
Hi lo books can make a significant difference in reading proficiency levels. They can also improve confidence and offer hope for a literate life. And though they’re not a silver bullet, they are an effective resource that should be considered for reluctant readers.
Social justice is a tricky topic to approach, especially when it comes to teaching children. Some people think that it’s best to leave the past in the past—to let it go. Others think that children should learn about social issues on their own, when they’re older.
Is social justice really something that should be taught to young children?
Injustices Are All around Them
Though teachers may have some part in controlling the culture within their classrooms, and parents have control of the culture in their homes, no one can control the world that children face when they walk outside, or when they turn on a TV, or when they turn on their computers.
The fact is that injustice is all around them. They face social issues all of the time. They will see it and some will live it, too. Some might wonder why they can’t find television shows with characters that look like them. Some might notice assumptions made about them based on their looks, their sexual orientation, or even their names. They see, and feel, unfairness all around them—even if they don’t realize exactly what they’re seeing and feeling. Children are actually quite the keen observers of the outside world. They experience struggles regarding privilege, power, and identity.
Ignoring social issues isn’t the answer. Even if you don’t talk about it, others will. And children might get a skewed perception of power, privilege, racism, sexism, and other social justice issues if teachers and parents don’t step in to explain—and to teach.
Social Justice as a Tool
Instead of ignoring social issues and avoiding social justice, we should be using it as a teaching tool to help children better understand themselves, better understand others, and better understand the world they live in.
It can help those struggling with identity crises to feel more comfortable with themselves and to understand why they’re being picked on, why they’re being hurt, why things just don’t seem “fair.” It can help those who come from power and privilege to ally with those who are disempowered. It can teach context and empathy for minority groups.
Furthermore, it’s an opportunity to create future social justice warriors who can question, challenge, change, and improve the status quo. It’s an opportunity to empower children to stand up for what they believe in.
By listening to and reading stories of injustice, progress can be actualized.
Teaching children about social issues is, no doubt, a difficult task. It can be uncomfortable and awkward. And it can raise difficult questions that you might not feel ready to answer just yet. But it’s so important. Children need to be able to understand the society they live in as it is—not as we wish it to be. They need our honesty and openness.
We cannot deny that injustices exist, and thus, we cannot deny kids the opportunity to learn about social justice. It should be taught both at home and in the classroom. And diverse books can help start the conversation about social justice.
Teachers are increasingly seeking new ways to teach their students about global awareness. Including more global issues into the curriculum is vital in today’s multicultural society. It can help students grow into global citizens, prepare them to live in the global society, and teach them how to navigate and succeed in this increasingly interconnected world that we live in.
Students are part of something bigger than themselves, and giving them the opportunity to understand this can ignite a passion to become more culturally responsible and sensitive.
However, with classes that are always short on time, it can be tough to add global learning activities on top of all the other learning objectives you already have. If you feel strongly about global awareness, however, you can prioritize these activities without taking up too much time.
Here are seven easy ways in which teachers can incorporate more global issues during class time.
1. Multicultural Books
One of the easiest and most effective ways to teach children about global awareness is to encourage them to read multicultural books, in which characters of different ethnicities, religions, and cultures can transport them on a global adventure.
Multicultural children’s books can not only help children learn about their cultural heritages, but it can also teach respect, dispel stereotypes, and showcase universal human feelings.
Multicultural books can teach children about the world that exists beyond their communities.
2. International Sports
Different countries play sports in different ways (such as European vs South American soccer), and others may have sporting events that aren’t readily seen in Canada. Exposing your students to international sporting events, such as the World Cup or the Olympics, or having them play different international sports during gym or recess can help them get excited about the differences that exist in the world.
What better way to allow your students to explore different cultural experiences than through food? Having a class potluck, where each student brings a dish from his or her cultural heritage, can be an excellent opportunity to teach kids about cultural diversity and sensitivity.
4. Field Trips
Taking a class trip to another country to expose your students to local cultures and foods around the world may not be possible. However, they can still encounter new cultures through field trips to nearby ethnic restaurants or heritage museums.
5. Online Programs
Children from kindergarten to high school can participate in the collaborative Worldwide Book Club project, in which students can connect with other students from around the world to discuss books.
Skype in the Classroom is another excellent program that allows classrooms to connect with other people around the world for free.
6. Google Field Trip App
The Google Field Trip app can allow your students to explore new geographies from the comfort of the classroom. Students can zoom in to specific locations using the map feature, or search for areas of interest, and find a wealth of information about interesting sites in the area, such as monuments, museums, haunted hotels, and theme parks.
7. Global Games
Exposing children to games that are played around the world can make global awareness teachings a lot of fun. Global games like Cat and Mice from the Philippines, Wee Bologna Man from Scotland, Kukla, Hit the Can from Turkey, and Crab Race from Japan can keep global awareness teachings engaging for younger children in particular.
Creating characters with disabilities in fiction books for kids can help you step out of your writing comfort zone, reach a unique audience, and help children relate to others who are differently abled. However, when writing these characters, it’s easy to fall into common stereotypes that can alienate your readers.
Here’s how not to write characters with disabilities in fiction books for kids.
Avoid These Top Two Stereotypes
More often than not, when it comes to writing characters with disabilities, authors tend to gravitate towards two tropes: the bitter character and the inspirational character.
A common narrative for the inspirational stereotype: the characters struggle with being accepted (or accepting themselves), but throughout the story, they start to successfully overcome challenges, and then, by the end of the story, they end up embracing the disability. These inspirational characters are often seen as saints that can do no wrong, which opens the hearts and changes the attitudes and pre-conceived notions of those around them.
A common narrative for the bitter stereotype: The character cannot accept the disability, and in turn, becomes angry and self-loathing.
These two stereotypes can be difficult to avoid. As you build your character, you naturally address the disability as well as the character’s internal feelings. These feelings might gravitate towards anger, especially if the disability is new. In order to avoid this, you might avoid feelings of anger and accidentally jump into the inspirational stereotype instead.
Addressing disability in fiction books for kids isn’t easy. The most effective way to avoid these two stereotypes is to remember that people with disabilities are not solely defined by their disabilities nor do they fit into nice, neat boxes. Some days they’ll be frustrated. Some days they might be inspirational to others. And other days, they’ll be neither. The same goes with characters with mental disabilities. Mental disabilities can be incredibly subtle and complex.
Creating dichotomy can help you avoid writing two-dimensional characters, avoid stereotyping, and in turn, avoid alienating and frustrating your readers who may have disabilities and be unable to connect with your characters.
Don’t Romanticize the Issue
Another common pitfall that authors of fiction books for kids often fall into (particularly in novels) is the romanticizing of the disability. In the majority of books currently on the market, the character with a disability is paralyzed from an accident and permanently in a wheelchair. The story is then turned into a romance, where the character finds hope—and true love. This story, quite honestly, has been done to death.
Apart from not wanting to repeat the same stories over and over again, it’s also a good idea to stay away from this narrative simply because of the fact that there are innumerous disabilities. Paraplegia is not the only disability that you can write about. Get creative.
Note: The same argument can be applied to romanticizing mental illnesses and learning disabilities.
Don’t Write Unrealistic Characters
All too often, authors want to add characters with disabilities into their stories, but fail to do their research beforehand. This can lead to unrealistic portrayals of accessibility, adaptation, comfort, and even sexual practices when the disability is romanticized. Making a paraplegic a master at maneuvering a wheelchair the moment he sits in one is, for example, quite unrealistic. If your details don’t ring true with your target audience, you haven’t done your job effectively. Research is a critical part of writing outside your comfort zone.
And remember, just because you want to include a character with a disability in your story doesn’t mean the entire story has to revolve around the disability!