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In a Pickle?

by Nicole Power
written by

a row of jars of pickles

Photo by mariko

Trying to find some good reads for struggling readers with comprehension needs? It can be especially tough finding something to interest the boys. I recently came across a good book I wanted to pass along. Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight is an excellent book to lure reluctant boys into reading a few more pages. It is a graphic novel for elementary age kids available from Scholastic or Amazon.

Frankie’s reality is written in typical book style, but his great, imaginative adventures are presented in comic book style. Lots of great vocabulary in this one, like “…it was made by a lost civilization most scholars…” Civilization and scholar? Now that’s some great Tier 2 vocabulary my kids can use! True to many graphic novels there are also plenty of slang terms, parodies, and idioms, but my kids need exposure to these terms to function in social conversation.

So, what would I do with a book like this? Well, besides that great tier 2 vocabulary instruction, I am a big believer in building background knowledge to support comprehension. One look at the front cover and title and most people make a connection between Frankie and Indiana Jones, except a lot of my kids don’t understand that connection. Dim the lights and show them a clip of Indiana Jones so they can figure out the connection between Frankie and Indiana Jones. Discuss why the author would want to do this.

Superheroes have made a big comeback in the stores and on TV. This book pays tribute to two well known superheroes, Superman and Batman. Chapter Six of Frankie Pickle uses a version of “It’s a bird, it’s a plane…”. Batman is spoofed throughout the book, especially in Chapter Nine with references to the “Pickle-mobile” and the “Pickle Cave”. YouTube is an excellent source to pull bits of video from vintage Superman and Batman TV shows. Consider showing your students clips from Superman with people pointing at the air shouting, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman!” Or even a clip of Batman saying, “To the Batcave, Robin!” It might sound like television viewing, but these pop culture icons are spoofed in so many books and shows, that the superhero background building you provide them now will provide them with a lifetime of support in “getting the joke”.

All of these great comprehension and vocabulary building ideas are available for the price of a scholastic book and YouTube access. Check out Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight if you need some fresh material for elementary boys!

(this post originally appeared on Educational Inspirations)

Nicole Power is an SLP and literacy consultant at Bethany Public Schools in Bethany, Oklahoma.  She provides language/literacy therapy as well as intervention primarily to elementary students.  Nicole is the district coordinator for the Response to Intervention program and collaborates with teachers and other specialists to provide high quality instruction to struggling students.  She presents area workshops and created and directs the Oklahoma School SLP Conference.

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