Slice of Life: Read Aloud with Jason Reynold’s Ghost

This morning I sat my fifth graders down to a new read aloud.

“Is it a chapter book? I hope so; I do lots of thinking in chapter books,” A. said.

For the last three weeks, I’ve read picture books. Great books. The choice was intentional. And they have done good work.  But, now they are itching for a good novel. One that sweeps them up off their feet, just like Some Kind of Courage by Dan Geimeinhart did.

I  read Jason Reynold’s Ghost over the Thanksgiving break, and I was fairly sure it would be a perfect fit.  Reynolds has an amazing way of inhabiting a character. He puts you right there. Even if it isn’t your experience, when you read his words it becomes yours.


I shared a picture of Jason signing our class copy.

“Whoa, he looks like my brother.”
“He’s so young!”
“He looks cool.”
“What did he say when he signed it?

Before I read one word, their hearts are in it. They love this guy.

I read the subtitle, Running for his life, or from it? and asked,
“What do you think that means?”

There were tentative thoughts.

“It could mean …”


“He could …”

The provocative subtitle pulled at them making them think. After chapter one, we don’t know why our main character is the way he is, but we have theories and wonderings. That’s the work we do at the beginning of a book. We try to make sense of the confusing place the writer has landed us in.

He eats sunflower seeds and talks about world records.
Why the heck is this 12-year old (we figured that out) not wanting to get home?
Why is he walking home, when he could take the bus home?

After a bit of reading, I ask students to reconsider the subtitle. They explode with ideas that are stronger and specific to the story so far. The wheels are turning not just about what happened, and what might happen, but why things are happening.

We’re busy noticing and wondering and revising our thinking about the character and his journey. This reading work we do when we start a book; it’s our journey. They are doing as “A” said lots of thinking.
Time flies, and we have to stop, for music. There are protests and groans of “noooo! ” Music to my ears.

No worries, I tell them, there’s tomorrow.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesday. Read more slices here.