Thursday, June 26, 2008

Candice Ransom on Transitional Readers

I heard Candice Ransom speak at the Roanoke Valley Reading Council's Literacy Tea on May 29, 2008. I am very far behind on posting reviews and notes from speakers I've heard, so I'm attempting to catch up.

Candice Ransom has written over 100 books for children including Finding Day's Bottom, Tractor Day, Seeing Sky-Blue Pink, and her new series for children, Time Spies Series.

I read the first book in the Time Spies series, Secret in the Tower, before it was published. I immediately loved it for two reasons: 1) it would appeal to my students who were unable or unmotivated to read longer chapter books, and 2) it took place in Virginia and snuck in Virginia history. Since I teach fourth grade and fourth graders study Virginia History, this was a big draw for me. You can read a chapter of Secret in the Tower here.

So, what are transitional readers? They are kids who are past the easy reader books, but aren't ready for middle grade chapter books. They are newly independent readers. As a teacher, I'm glad Candice is trying to appeal to this age group. There are some kids who try to make that leap to regular chapter books and just can't plow through the entire book. They aren't ready. The Time Spies series books are ones that have chapters that can be read in one sitting, and have a "hook" at the end of the chapter, to make the reader want to keep reading.

Ransom describes her books as a mixed genre, combining adventure, fantasy, mystery, biography, history, set in a comtemporary setting, and put it all in a series. She says that this series is a tribute to "everyday fantasy" where a kid feels like something magic could happen to you. She pays homage to E. Nesbit and others. In this series, modern day kids go back in time to an important moment in history. But as Ransom says, she uncovers a piece of history in each of the books that hasn't been "done to death." The social studies teachers in my school were excited that Secret in the Tower talked about Jack Jouett, known as the "Paul Revere of the South" who warned Jefferson that the British wanted to capture him.

There isn't an author's note at the end of each books, because "kids don't read them." Instead there is a travel guide at the back of each book with the historical information in it.

The Time Spies series has a wonderful website with lots of information for kids. You can check it out here.

Other links:
Candice Ransom's website
Candice Ransom's blog

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