Enter Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. This is the sweetest story of a boy named Billy Colman and his two hound dogs. There is action and adventure, but mostly it is a beautiful story of love and faith. I had never read this book until about a month before I decided to read it aloud to my class. I listened to the audio version while driving from my parent's house in Georgia back to Alabama. Normally I get incredibly annoyed listening to audio books because the narration is usually either very overdone, or incredibly boring. Anthony Heald does, in my opinion, a fantastic job of capturing the conversational tone in this book.
I drove down the interstate at 8 months pregnant listening to this book. I became so emotional, it's a wonder I made it home alive! I couldn't even stop to get something to eat or drink because I was crying so uncontrollably. I can only think of a small handful of books that have moved me as much as this one. I started to worry that I shouldn't read this book with my class, because I didn't want to upset my students. (**spoiler alert**) Then I remembered that pretty much all the classic young adult books out there deal with death in some way.
Reading this book with my class was one of the best decisions I've made. I think it awakened something in even my most reluctant readers. The biggest problem we faced was that everyone went home begging for their parents to get them some "good hounds"!
I found the movie based on the book to be awful, but then again, I can't think of a movie based on a book that I've really enjoyed. The students liked it though, and it gave us something "educational" to do on those last few days of school. Ha! We also watched Where the Red Fern Grows Part 2, which was truly horrifying. There is one part where Lisa Whelchel's (Blair from The Facts of Life) boyfriend kind of forces himself on her. Pretty inappropriate for this age group. Once again, I should preview things I show my class! While I'm on the subject, never, never show Bill Nye- Germs to your class. It goes into some pretty, ahem, detailed descriptions of how one can contract HIV. My students didn't know what hit them with that one!
To me, Where the Red Fern Grows is a great read aloud because 1) It is very well written. 2) It appeals to both boys and girls. 3) It has an excellent audio version. If you're like me and teach more than one section of reading, you get really tired reading aloud. Usually my students prefer for me to read, but they told me they definitely preferred the audio book in this case. 4) There is an awesome Literature Unit: A Guide for Where the Red Fern Grows that goes with it. I usually hate these premade things, but this was is excellent, in my opinion. Have I convinced you yet? What read alouds do you love doing with your class?