A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season. I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December. These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child. For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.
When a new student entered our 3rd grade gifted and talented class this year a few weeks after we’d begun classes, I thought we might need to spend some time filling her in on what she had missed so far. I was wrong. Growth mindset, the importance of stretching your brain, systems thinking – she had already covered these topics at her previous school. One day, we were talking about how, if you don’t learn about how to deal with challenges you might begin to avoid them altogether because you don’t want people to think you aren’t smart and she said, “This reminds me of Fish in a Tree!” She was so excited about the connection between this library book that she was reading and our discussion that I said, “I would like to read that book, too!”
“There’s extra copies in the library!” she exclaimed!
“Well, let’s all read it, then!” I said, completely caught up in her exuberance and not at all concerned that I had just committed our small class to reading a book that I hadn’t previewed yet and that the “recommender” hadn’t even finished. We went straight to the library and checked it out.
My student was right. Fish in a Tree is the perfect supplement to our classroom discussions. In the story, the main character, Ally, covers up her difficulty with reading. She eventually finds out, due to a dedicated teacher, that she has dyslexia. Along the way, she learns that making good friends is more worthwhile than trying to fit in, and that her imagination, perseverance, and courage are truly admirable.
The other young characters in the story, especially the new friends that Ally makes, remind me of many of the students I’ve taught over the years. Ally’s teacher exemplifies so many of the caring colleagues I have had the honor of working with during my career.
In the book, Ally’s use of figurative language – particularly similes – offers a lot of opportunities for discussion along with great mental images that make the story come to life.
If you are a parent, I encourage you to buy this book for your child, and read it together. If you are a teacher, read it along with your class (and here are some classroom activities to go along with it). It’s a heartwarming novel that emphasizes kindness, understanding, and individuality.