At the Heart of things… Engagement and Capturing Attention
Storytime Standouts’ guest contributor looks at engagement and capturing attention – two keys when working with middle grade readers.
After Christmas break, I started reading Inkheart by Cornelia Funke to my class. My book club had not gone well in the first term and I was determined to recapture their attention. I keep going back to the ideas of engagement and capturing attention because I believe that those things are essential for helping kids pick their paths. My goal with Inkheart was to read the kids an interesting novel while teaching them different reading response strategies so that in third term, they could work independently on novel studies. A few of the kids had read the book, but not many. It’s quite a big book, which almost made me change my mind. But the world the author creates within her book is so fascinating and enthralling, that it didn’t seem to matter.
We are now almost half way through the book. There are wonderful characters; Meggie, her father Mo, the quiet and strange Dustfinger, book loving Aunt Elinor, and the malicious villain Capricorn. I knew there was a movie of the book but did not want to watch it until we had finished. The kids did NOT feel the same and so, when they played it on television two weeks ago, most of my class watched it.
Upon learning they watched it, I wondered: would this ruin it? Would their interest drop because they had seen it? Would they use their imaginations now that they knew what the characters looked like? Would they engage? Question? Predict? I admit, I didn’t pick up the book for a couple days because I thought, well, they’re done with that. But I was wrong. It seems that seeing the movie only enhanced their interest. Instead of being “finished” they started discussing how their images of Capricorn and Dustfinger were different from the movie portrayals. For some of them, it’s even strengthened the read aloud because they can picture someone in the role with no effort. Yes, they know how it ends, but I was so pleased to see that when they were read a chapter this week and we ran out of time, they expressed great disappointment.
They are invested in the characters and the book contains things (as always) that the movie does not. They love being read to and they love hearing about characters that matter to them. So while I wouldn’t have recommended that they watch the movie so soon, it doesn’t seem to have deterred them from staying connected to the story.
This story tells about how Dustfinger and Capricorn came to exist. Funke does an amazing job setting the stage and making you fall in love with her characters. My favorite part of the book is that at the beginning of every chapter, she has included a quote from another book or story. This has been very powerful for the students as well because they may have read the story she quotes. Though we are a ways from being done, the kids are already excited about reading the next books in the series as well: Inkspell and Inkdeath .
Definitely worth the read.