My neighbor teaches 5th grade, and like me, she believes strongly in the power of reading aloud to her class. Whenever I read a fabulous book, I share it with her as I know she will incorporate it into her classroom. Over winter break, I read Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (first-time author and a teacher who clearly understands classroom dynamics and currents) and knew she would appreciate it for multiple reasons. My copy was an interlibrary loan book, but she promised to finish it quickly - and did. She loved it as well...and could relate to the plot because of things that occurred at her school. She's starting it on Tuesday with her students.
The book is narrated by seven students in Mr. Terupt's 5th grade class. They are not stereotypical students, but each possesses characteristics and traits similar to those in students I know. One is incredibly intelligent. One bullies others and pits students against students. One has moved from another state. One persists in goofing around too much. One is ostracized for her physical size. One is ostracized because of her family situation. One has never been taken seriously by the other. From them the reader learns of the dynamics in Mr. Terupt's classroom. He does not humiliate or reprimand students in front of the class. He encourages discovery* and inquiry. He provides opportunities for understanding others that alter perspectives. Ultimately, Mr. Terupt's decisions and ways of dealing with problems lead to an unfortunate accident, causing the students to evaluate their own roles in its occurrence.
When a book becomes didactic in the author's desire to teach a lesson or skill, I believe it shortchanges the readers. Because of Mr. Terupt teaches many things in a respectful manner. It lingers in my mind, urging me to carefully consider the words I choose and how they are delivered...at school and in all corners of life.
*Dollar words are a great math and literacy activity I learned from the book. Each letter of the alphabet has a cent value (i.e., a = 1 cent, b = 2 cents, c = 3 cents and so on). The goal is to discover words whose letters add up to one dollar). Excellent is an example.