Hi friends! This blog is for teachers and families- all for the sheer joy of literacy. When we are enthusiastic about reading and writing our students and our own kids become excited to read and write. I hope that we all can be models for those in our care- how did you show your passion for reading, writing, learning, language, or words today?? It's in those small, daily moments that we teach kids to love literacy.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hi/Lo Book Bag: Almost Zero

When reading we all come to the table with our experiences, background knowledge, otherwise known to educators as schemata or schema. All of these experiences we've had inform how we read what we read.  I work with struggling readers usually 2 years behind (or more), and my experience of working with these low readers day in and day out shapes my perception of most kid's books. I'm always hoping to find books that would be interesting to my reluctant readers, but not too far above their reading level.

So, in light of this, I decided to start a new series of posts about hi/lo books. Hi/lo books are books written at a high interest level for lower readers. [You can by sets of hi/lo book for reluctant readers. I haven't been too impressed with these book sets though.] If I come across a book I think would work well as a hi/lo book, I'll review it as a part of this series. I'll also include books that my reading intervention students enjoy reading as well.

I ran across this Nikki Grimes' book, Almost Zero, the other day at the library. Grimes' is a prolific children's author. I read the entire 96 page book while my husband was getting dinner ready. It was a fast read.

I really like the main character Dyamonde. Her personality reminds me of many of mt students'- trying to be tough and play her mom, when she's just a big insecure sweety on the inside. Dyamonde learns lesson the hard way in this book. She has a good mom that know what she needs most in life (and it's not fancy red sneakers!). Grimes really knows how the mind of an older elementary works, and I think a lot of kids will connect with this book. 

Here's an excerpt from the book: 
       Wednesday morning, Dyamonde stomped and banged doors as loudly as she could, hoping to make her mom as mad as she was. But it didn't work. Her mom pretended not to notice. "Big deal," Dyamonde muttered to herself. "So what if I have to wear the same stupid clothes I had on yesterday. I don't care." Dyamonde's lie sounded pretty weak, even to herself.
       Dyamonde pulled on her red T-shirt, which had a quarter-size mustard stain on it from the bite of hot dog Free gave her at lunch the day before.
      "Shoot!" said Dyamonde.

Here's why I'd think it would work as a hi/lo book:
  • Colorful, inviting, and fresh cover: This gets major points, really! Don't you gravitate toward the book with the cool cover?
  • Graphics on every page: This is inviting for lower readers.
  • Inviting illustrations: This helps lower comprehenders follow the plot and feel more confident while reading. It also helps them understand the book better.
  • Bigger text: This is less intimidating for struggling readers.
  • Less text per page: Nuff said!
  • Lots of dialogue: Usually dialogue usually uses a vernacular that kids understand, so it makes the book easier to comprehend.
  • Shorter sentences: This will help with comprehension for lower reader. The longer a sentence gets, the more complex it gets.
  • Font style changes on title, body, and on sections throughout: This brings more energy and movement to the text, which motivates students to keep reading! 
  • It has chapters! This helps lower reader to feel more confident in what they're reading, making it feel a lot less babyish.

Scholastic's Teacher Book Wizard places another book in this series at 3.5 grade reading level and a 3-5 grade interest level. However, I could see a 6th grader reading at a 2nd grade level enjoying this book, so I'd stretch scholastic's numbers a bit.

Dyamonde really wants red high-top sneakers. Too bad they're so expensive! A classmate tells her it's her mom's job to give her what she needs, but when Dyamonde tries that argument, her mom teaches her a lesson by literally only giving her what she needs. Now Dyamonde is down to almost zero outfits! But then she finds out one of her friends has it much worse, and she's determined to do what she can to help.

Coretta Scott King Award winner Nikki Grimes' third book starring the unstoppable Dyamonde Daniel will delight fans and new readers alike, with energetic storytelling, relatable situations and Dyamonde's spitfire personality.
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published October 28th 2010 by Penguin Group (USA)

Be Well! Read On!


  1. As I spend the vast majority of my time with the 'pre-reading' set, I appreciate learning the concept of the hi/lo book and can imagine how necessary & significant locating good ones would be.

    I had such a touching experience yesterday in performing a Library Concert for a summer reading program. I was sharing my picture books with a mixed audience of 2 to 10 year olds. I had a little almost third grader hang back after my concert presentation. She gave me a hug and quite sincerely asked me if I could start writing 'chapter books' because she thought I'd be good at it & she wanted to read what I could write........ awwwwwwwwwww.

    (Stopping thru from WeTeach)

  2. Debbie, I love that anecdote- so sweet! That child really connects with you!! I love that you combine music with reading. I think they go together so naturally! I find myself singing books to my toddler because she loves it so much.

  3. As a writer, I write my children's books with struggling readers firmly in mind. Sadly, the books I write are not what most (traditional) publishers seem to want. Yes, educational publishers do, but traditional publishers have much higher word counts. Perhaps they perceive the book buyers as wanting "more bang for their buck", but I think it's such a pity for the kids who would be more likely to switch on to reading if a book were not so daunting ie less words, and less text because of illustrations. I also think there may be a prejudice in book buyers for illustrated chapter books - as if a child turning a certain age means he no longer likes visuals.


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