Beginning a new school year can be a daunting task to any teacher, particularly one who is new to the field. Thirty-year veteran Pat Dragan has discovered that one of the best ways to proceed is by putting an Overnight Book Program at the core of the literacy curriculum. The payoff is considerable. Everything developing readers and writers need to understand literacy can be learned easily and joyfully by taking books home to share with their families and returning to school the next day to participate in a range of engaging literacy activities.
The Overnight Book Program can begin on day one. Pat advises teachers not to hesitate: "I start reading to my first graders right away . . . The stories bind us as a group." By sending a book home nightly with each of her students, Dragan developed a cornerstone for teaching that encompasses care and value for books, responsibility, and working together to learn, as well as traditional curricular areas of phonemic awareness, language and vocabulary development, and comprehension.
Humor and innovation are also important ingredients in teaching young children. Dragan emphasizes throughout specific methods that promote joyful learning, creativity, integrated learning, and making connections. "Visual motivators" help the process with suggestions for using children's writing, dictation, art, and photos to produce charts, posters, and murals—some of the first materials children can successfully read. With the range of options presented here, not only will teachers find an organization style that best suits them for managing an Overnight Book Program, they'll discover (or rediscover) the joy of recognition as young readers and writers first learn to connect with the printed word.