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I love a good challenge.

My favorite? Convincing developing middle grade readers that the work of reading is worth the effort.

The last couple of years I’ve developed a deep appreciation for Scholastic’s classroom magazine, Storyworks.  Each publication contains engaging selections in a variety of genres: fiction, nonfiction, debate, poetry and often a high-interest infographic.

Last week I watched as a dozen fifth grade students (placed in small groups for remediation) started with a foundational text for the week that came from this month’s Storyworks. To build interest, selected excerpts from The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club were read first. Then students previewed all the text features from Storywork’s The Boy Who Fought Hitler, the true story of a 19-year old boy who escaped the Warsaw ghetto, joined partisans and fought to protect Jewish citizens from Nazi soldiers during World War ll.

The following day, we chunked the text to get at the deeper meaning and talked about the ways in which the author masterfully used both macro and micro structures to engage and inform the reader. Numerous connections were made between the Storyworks article and The Churchill Club. The student groups worked diligently to fashion main idea statements and include supporting details which in turn helped them create their own summary statements.

The War That Saved My Life was a perfect companion to pair with the article on a subsequent day. An excerpt that related the details of ten-year-old Ada’s personal involvement in the famous Dunkirk evacuation was the focus of that day’s reading. Again, more great connections and a ton of questions that led to inquiry on the last couple of days.

We were able to finish up the week with a look at WW ll posters used in America to raise morale and encourage involvement at home in the war effort. As a result of that inquiry some students discovered  many Americans’ willing obligation of growing one’s own victory garden during the war. One of the blog posts we read about war time gardens shared a recipe for Victory Soup. The kids worked in pairs to read the recipe, add ingredients to the crockpot and cook the soup.

On the final day of the instructional cycle, kids sampled the soup and reflected on their learning. They shared specific bits from texts that had engaged them, but several of them also talked about how they’d grown as readers and were using different moves, strengthening certain dispositions, and my favorite—they were discovering renewed motivation for trying out different kinds of texts or widening the scope of topics they might choose in the future.

There are tons of resources we could’ve used in this small group intervention, but because of my familiarity with and growing love of Scholastics Storyworks (I might also add that I am equally smitten with the grades 6-8 Scope magazines) I know I have access to a high-quality, multi-genre publication that captures kids’ hearts and minds.

Try it out. You’ll be crushin’ on Scholastic Storyworks before long, too.

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