What concerns me about those little chapter books put out by Ray and Gaab et al is that they are being used too early in a child’s language career. Huge amounts of auditory input should precede reading input, and the CI world, in rather cavalier fashion, currently dives into the novels way too early in level 1 classes.
The kids don’t have enough auditory input to be able to read them. It would solve a lot of problems and boost the confidence of a lot of kids if language teachers would use the level 1 novels in level 2, the level 2 novels in level 3, etc. I call this “reading down”.
What about level 1? In my opinion, CI students in level 1 should only read things that they create in class: tableaux and stories based on Card Talk, One Word Images and Individually Created Images.
This has three benefits:
1. It makes more instructional minutes available for purely auditory input.
2. It helps build the students’ confidence.
3. It might help slow down some of the free fall being experienced by many teachers in the CI world these days. I see much of the recent failure of CI as related to overuse of the novels. It’s become almost like the textbook. CI is more effective when the CI teacher focuses more on providing quality auditory input first, with reading happening much later and in more limited forms. The heyday of reading input should be in the upper levels of CI programs.
This topic impacts the equity piece. When you require a child who has grown up in poverty to pick up one of those novels and start reading it, you exclude her from the classroom process more than you might think. Don’t do that anymore. Build your CI community so that all your kids succeed. We’re not favoring any one group of students anymore.