Literature is a fundamental element of any well-rounded education. Understanding great books is a skill that opens students to new ideas, new experiences, and new truths they would otherwise never be exposed to. It's also a skill that requires development, and Carrie Austin aims to help parents foster these abilities in their children through her book Drawn Into the Heart of Reading.
A single teacher's guide is the primary text for the entire course, which is designed to cover grades 2-8. Students are expected to read fluently and independently at a post-phonics level. There are three primary levels—grades 2/3, grades 4/5, and grades 6/7/8, each with its own emphases and assignments. Teacher involvement is required at every level, though students work independently more and more as they progress.
Biography, adventure, historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, folk tale, nonfiction, humor and realistic fiction are the genres Austin chooses to work with, and while literature afficianados will balk at such simplistic divisions this course was not written for those already well-versed in literature, nor was it written for high school students (for whom more nuanced instruction is appropriate) but for elementary and middle school kids.
Parents decide which genre their kids will study. Each genre section begins with ideas for a "genre kickoff"—an activity designed to get students thinking about the kinds of books they're about to read and help them understand beforehand what kinds of things to look for as they interact with texts. Because the program is designed to be used across a spectrum of age groups simultaneously, activities are delineated as group or individual, and the genre kickoff is always a group activity.
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