I finally met up with Karen Slikas Barber and asked about her new book, More Carly and Kumar, from Read Me Again Press.
Karen, you’ve got a new set of Carly and Kumar stories out – what inspired you to start writing again?
My students were reading the Carly and Kumar stories, saying they were funny, then heading to the library to look for similar books. They’d come back and say they couldn’t find any, so that’s when I decided to write more stories.
When we read books as native speakers, we get to know characters and they become our friends, so we can anticipate what they might say or do in certain situations…that happens for our learners too.
So I hope that with More Carly and Kumar, students can enjoy getting to know the characters better, as they do the kind of things that students might do themselves, like losing keys, having misunderstandings, keeping personal information from parents, or having a job interview.
What have you learnt from this journey?
It has been difficult, because although I believe in the books, it can be hard to convince people that it’s worthwhile spending time reading stories in class. Yet the teachers who have used the books find the students love them and love learning by reading.
This isn’t just about your books, though, is it?
No, it’s about my passion for Extensive Reading, which I’ve talked about before. ER is an essential part of any language curriculum, to help develop reading and language fluency, so that NOT to do it is a huge deficit in any program (Grabe). You know Paul Nation suggests that more than 20% of classroom time could be spent on extensive reading; that is, reading for meaning-focused input and for fluency development.
I know that busy teachers ask, well how does ER ‘fit’ in the curriculum?
It fits because we learn to read by reading. I’ll say it again. ‘We learn to read by reading.’ Once someone can read alone, they can improve by doing more reading, but students don’t always learn how to do ER in the classroom, so they don’t know what unaided, extensive reading looks and feels like.
You’re passionate about helping students ‘catch the reading bug’?
Yes, and seeing that they can have gain with no pain!!
Karen will be running an ‘Easy Reading Bootcamp’ session at the ACTA conference (on October 1st), so look out for her there!