The JGC/United Publishing Philosophy: Just because we found the world a certain way doesn't mean we have to leave it that way. Our goal is to help readers see beyond what is to what can be by opening minds and hearts with the power of imaginative literature. — John Gile, Editor & Publisher

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Oh, How I Wished I Could Read! — Classroom Activities

Teaching Aids For Motivating Students To Develop Reading Power

(You may find it convenient to print and keep this section for use with your students.)

• Share Oh, How I Wished I Could Read! with the children to stimulate more thought and conversation about the importance of reading at a personal level. The story provides concrete — and amusing — examples of the role reading plays in our lives.

• After sharing Oh, How I Wished I Could Read! with the children, have each child pick a reason why reading is important to him or her. Have the children write their reasons reading is important to them and make a picture to go with their written text. You may wish to mail their responses to author John Gile c/o JGC/United Publishing at 1710 N. Main St., Rockford, IL 61103-4706 or e-mail them by clicking here. Your students will receive a response or responses encouraging them to read. If you request and circumstances allow, some or all of your students' work may also be shared with others at or

• Post their work in the classroom or hallway with your dust jacket from Oh, How I Wished I Could Read! posted in the center to tie the children's writing and illustrating together.

• Do a classroom or school play of the Oh, How I Wished I Could Read! story.

• For grades three and above, teachers may wish to do an advanced version of that activity or read What Is That Thing? Whose Stuff Is This? to focus on vocabulary development and the worlds that open to us with word power. Another appropriate exercise with the older children is to follow the reading with a discussion of ideas presented and then have students, working in groups or individually, create 60 second “commercials” about the importance of reading, the connection between reading and vocabulary development, the ways word power enriches our own lives and the lives of everyone in our communities, and the impact our words can have on others. Featuring the students’ word power “commercials” on the PA system involves the whole school and provides students with recognition for their good work.

• Author John Gile strives to make reading power come alive by describing what reading has done for some of his reading and writing heroes: "Reading changes lives. Reading turned a backwoods rail splitter into a Lincoln; a disruptive troublemaker into a Thomas Edison; an unschooled river rat into a Mark Twain; a maltreated slave into a Frederick Douglass. Reading changes lives." (John Gile, Connecticut Interview, from Introduction to What Is That Thing? Whose Stuff Is This?) Frederick Douglass is one of his favorites. Douglass was a slave living in Maryland and was given to a family in Baltimore. The slave owners in Maryland were so afraid of reading that they made it against the law to teach a slave to read. Ask the children why they think the slave owners were so afraid of reading. Post their answers as constant reminders and motivators.

• While Frederick Douglass lived with a family in Baltimore, he saw the mother teaching her son how to read — and told her he would like to learn to read. She was a kind woman and started to teach him, but her husband found out and stopped her because it was against the law. Douglass said that's when he realized reading is the pathway to freedom. Ask your students why Frederick Douglass believed reading is the pathway to freedom.

• Frederick Douglass taught himself how to read and write and became a powerful person. He escaped to New York, became a free person, and started an abolitionist newspaper that helped thousands of others get their freedom. He became an advisor to President Lincoln, was appointed ambassador to Haiti, and became one of the first Americans to speak on behalf of women's rights. Douglass became a powerful person — through reading and writing.. Have the children gather and share other examples of persons who learned to read and write despite obstacles and who used those powers to improve the lives of other. Encourage the children to understand reading and writing will give them power, too.

• Have your students write a letter to Frederick Douglass, perhaps a letter of encouragement or sympathy or admiration.

• Help the children compile a list of reading and writing heroes for your classroom and hallways. A prime example is a little girl from Tuscumbia, Alabama, named Helen Keller. Mark Twain summarizes her story for us in a letter he wrote to a millionaire friend of his trying to raise money to help pay for her education. He told his friend that Helen Keller had been mute, deaf, and blind ever since she was a little baby a year and a half old, but at 16 years of age she "passes the Harvard University examination in Latin, German, French history, belles lettres, and such things, and does it brilliantly, too, not in a commonplace fashion. She doesn't merely know things, she is splendidly familiar with the meanings of them. When she writes an essay on a Shakespearean character, her English is fine and strong, her grasp of the subject is the grasp of one who knows, and her page is electric with light." Though Helen Keller could not see or hear or speak, she overcame all that and went on to become an acclaimed author and lecturer, making a difference in the lives of millions and living a full and happy life herself. Ask the children to imagine how difficult it must have been for Helen Keller to develop her reading and writing powers when she could not see or hear or speak. Have them compare the challenges they face in developing their own powers with the challenges Helen Keller faced. Have them write their answers and post for inspiration.

• It may be difficult for the children to imagine Helen Keller's experiences, so refer them to the library where they can find books by and about Helen Keller or have them do an online search for information about her. Read excerpts from Helen Keller's autobiographical The World I Live In, a short but beautiful and moving book that helps readers understand human powers of perception and gain insight into other persons' perspectives in a very powerful way. Have your students write their responses or have them write a letter to Helen Keller, perhaps a letter of encouragement or sympathy or admiration.

• Have your students do sensory centered activities such as watching TV with the sound off, closing their eyes and noting sounds they hear, refrain from talking for a day, and other changes in their normal perception and communication patterns. Have them note how other senses compensate and how they, like Helen Keller, begin to notice what they normally do not notice. Have them write about their experiences, what they learned in the process, and how they can apply what they learned in their daily lives.

• Do a classroom or school play of the Helen Keller story.

• Do a classroom or school play of the Frederick Douglass story. An excellent source is Escape to Freedom, a play about young Frederick Douglass by Ossie Davis. You will find inspiration for upper grade students in Frederick Douglass, Voice of Freedom by Eric Weiner and The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An America Slave by Frederick Douglass.

• Do a classroom play about any of the reading heroes your students identify. Have students make a presentation about the life of their reading hero. Have them wear a period costume for their presentation.

• A teacher shares ideas for using Oh, How I Wished I Could Read! with students: (Special thanks to Ron Reigner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the State University of West Georgia, for sharing a student's annotated bibliography notes on Oh, How I Wished I Could Read! ) "The book can be used to encourage students having difficulty with reading. It also can be read to classes of younger children to encourage the reading of environmental print. Children can be made more aware of rhyming words if the teacher leaves off the second rhyming word and allows the children to supply it. The theme of reading as a 'friend' is very influential and a much needed incentive."

Good News For Teachers And Principals

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Copyright 2010 by JGC/United Publishing, 815.968.6601. All rights reserved. Revised: January 21, 2010