Basic & Transitional Studies Presents:

Book Talk


Looking for an extensive reading book for your class? Can't think of a title? Want to hear how a colleague has used a particular text for instruction? Want to hear a summary? Want to get a feeling for it? Look no further, that's what Book Talk is all about. As more instructors use the books and agree to interviews, we'll post their reviews and their tips for using each title.



Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Featured Interview with Rebecca Boon, ESL 4B

"I wrote Because of Winn-Dixie at the tail end of one of the worst winters on record in Minnesota, when I was homesick for the warmth of Florida. I was living in an apartment where no dogs were allowed. As a result, I was suffering from a serious case of 'dog withdrawal.' One night, before I went to sleep, I heard this little girl's voice (with a Southern accent) say, 'I have a dog named Winn-Dixie.' When I woke up the next morning, the voice was still talking, and I started writing down what India Opal Buloni was telling me." -Kate DiCamillo Review
Because of Winn-Dixie, a big, ugly, happy dog, 10-year-old Opal learns 10 things about her long-gone mother from her preacher father. Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal makes new friends among the somewhat unusual residents of her new hometown, Naomi, Florida. Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal begins to find her place in the world and let go of some of the sadness left by her mother's abandonment seven years earlier.

With her newly adopted, goofy pooch at her side, Opal explores her bittersweet world and learns to listen to other people's lives. This warm and winning book hosts an unforgettable cast of characters, including a librarian who fought off a bear with a copy of War and Peace, an ex-con pet-store clerk who plays sweet music to his animal charges, and the neighborhood "witch," a nearly blind woman who sees with her heart. Part Frankie (The Member of the Wedding), part Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird), Opal brings her own unique and wonderful voice to a story of friendship, loneliness, and acceptance. Opal's down-home charm and dead-on honesty will earn her friends and fans far beyond the confines of Naomi, Florida. (Ages 9 and older) --Emilie Coulter

From Publishers Weekly
Through the love she gains from her new pet, a girl gains the courage to ask her father about the mother who abandoned them. "In this exquisitely crafted first novel [a Newbery Honor book], each chapter possesses an arc of its own and reads almost like a short story in its completeness," said PW in our Best Books of 2000 citation. Ages 8-up.

From Booklist
Like Kimberly Willis Holt's When Zachary Beaver Came to Town (1999), this novel joins the long tradition of fiction exploring a small southern town's eccentric characters. It's summer, and 10-year-old India Opal Buloni moves with her preacher father to tiny Naomi, Florida. She's lonely at first, but Winn-Dixie, the stray dog of the title, helps her befriend a group of lovable, quirky locals, eventually bringing her closer to her father and the truth about her mother, who left the family when India was 3. Told in India's sensitive, believable voice, the story is most successful in detailing the appealing cast of characters, including Otis, an ex-convict, musician, and pet store manager; Miss Franny, a Willie Wonkaesque librarian whose "Litmus Lozenges" candies taste like sorrow; and nearly blind Gloria Dump, whose tree hung with empty liquor bottles reminds her of "the ghosts of all the things I done wrong." While some of the dialogue and the book's "life lessons" can feel heavy-handed, readers will connect with India's love for her pet and her open-minded, free-spirited efforts to make friends and build a community.

Here's the YouTube video about Because of Winn-Dixie:



In Neil Anderson's book Exploring Second Language Reading: Issues and Strategies, he discusses evaluating text for reading development. In this discussion, he provides an outline of four levels of reading first published by E. A.Betts in 1957:

Basal Level This is an independent reading level; without teacher assistance, students can achieve 90% comprehension. Materials at this level can be used to increase reading rates and to introduce new reading strategies.
Instructional Level This is the "teaching level." Students can achieve 70%-75% comprehension. Materials at this level can be used to practice new reading strategies.
Frustration Level This is the level to be avoided. Students achieve 50% or below comprehension, which will probably cause them to hate reading in general
Capacity Level This is the level of students' listening level to material read aloud. Some students may be able to listen to materials read by a teacher that is higher than their individual reading levels

That 70%-75% level can be a bit uncomfortable for students who are used to understanding their readings at 100%, but throughout the quarter their level of discomfort, as well as their comprehension, changes for the better. The capacity level is intriguing as it seems to indicate that either using audio in class or having it available can be an aid in developing reading. For some samples, follow this link to Jacquie George's website for audio files for the book The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd.



If you have any questions about the content of the videos, this page or BookTalk, please contact Ann Levine or Jacquie George.

Ann Levine   Jacquie George
ESL Faculty, B&TS   ESL Faculty, B&TS
Seattle Central CommunityCollege   Seattle Central Community College
206.587.6312   206.587.5432