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Building Comprehension Skills With Author Studies

written by: Kara Bietz • edited by: Pamela Rice-Linn • updated: 1/5/2012

What better way to instill a lifelong love of reading than by conducting author studies? To build comprehension skills in students, try these simple activities that will pique the interest of even the pickiest readers. We include a list of authors whose books and biographies are readily available.

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    Using as a Teaching Tool

    Author studies can be a very powerful teaching tool to build reading comprehension. While participating in the research required for an author study, students are able to make connections between the book they are reading and the life of the author. Often, author studies can have the effect of students seeking out other works by the same author, therefore building a love of reading.

    In some instances, books and author studies can spark an interest in writing. The more creative you allow your students to be, the more involved they will become in author studies. To build comprehension, choose authors that you know your students enjoy reading, and that have life stories that your class can relate to.

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    Choosing an Author: Tips for All Grade Levels

    Author studies are appropriate for children in any grade from elementary school to high school. A good place to begin is an online search engine. Ask students for suggestions of books they would like to read, and do a bit of online research before making any final decisions. Does this author write books that are appropriate for your class? Does the author have an online prescence? Is there enough information available for students to conduct an in depth author study? Is the author still living?

    Once an author has been chosen, begin reading several different titles by the author. If the author is still living, do a bit of research to see if the author is available for a school visit or Skype visit. In this age of virtual meetings, Skype visits are becoming more popular and can be much more affordable for both the school and author. See if the author you choose would be willing to have a Skype visit with your class.

    Here are several suggestions for authors who have written books popular with children and whose websites and school materials are readily available:

    Picture Books: Jan Brett, Eric Carle, Tomie DePaola, Don and Audrey Wood, Hester Bass, Robie Harris, Susan Rosson Spain, Jane Yolen, Jon Scieszka

    Middle Grade or Chapter Books: Laurie Halse Anderson, Suzanne Collins, Rick Riordan, Jon Scieszka, JS Lewis, Jeff Kinney, Greg Neri, Susan Patron

    Young Adult Books: Laurie Halse Anderson, Lindsey Leavitt, Irene Latham, Cyn Balog, Jo Knowles, Maureen Johnson, Greg Neri, Vicky Alvear Schecter

    Be sure to review books by these authors before making any final decisions to determine whether the content is appropriate for your classroom's needs.

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    Author Study Activities

    It is not enough just to read books and research author's lives in order to do in-depth author studies. To build comprehension skills, students should be encouraged to do activities related to the books or the author's experiences. In order for students to learn as much as possible, be sure that they lead most of the activities.

    • Break your class into small groups and assign each group a particular area of interest to study. For example, one group will be in charge of researching the author's early years. Another group will research the author's body of work and provide a synopsis for each book the author has written. Another group could learn the author's writing process. Allow each group a few days to a week to compile a presentation on their area of interest. Have each group present their findings to the class in an oral report.
    • Claim one corner of your classroom as the "Author Study Corner." Provide a bulletin board and a small table, and allow students to decorate the corner with pictures of the author, examples of his or her writing, book covers, and short biographical checklists about the author's life. Invite other students to visit your Author Corner and encourage others to ask questions of your students.
    • Once you have finished reading a particular author's books, have the students write personalized letters to the author. Ask the students to draw parallels between the author's life and the book they have read. Have the students ask questions of the author. Most authors will respond to the mail with, at the very least, a form letter.

    Build a lifelong love of reading in your students as well as a higher level of comprehension by conducting in-depth author studies.

    Reference: School Library Journal: Meet Any Good Authors Lately? http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6673572.html#AuthorsWhoSkypewithBookClubs