Deconstructing Penguins: English Teacher Pick

Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading

Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone


The Goldstones describe the book club model they set up through their local library, specifically for 2nd-5th graders. They explain the importance of reading itself, but also emphasize reading good literature and not just reading for reading’s sake. (Sorry for all the “readings.” 🙂 ) In each chapter, the authors discuss different literary elements, specifically protagonist/antagonist, plot/climax, and conflict. It sounds boring, but it’s not; the comments and questions from the kids in the reading groups keep things light for sure, even when discussing difficult texts like Animal Farm (in 4th grade!) and The Giver.

Who Should Read This Book:

-Parents of elementary aged kids

-Literature teachers at any level

-People who want to get more out of what they read

Even though this book is geared at teaching/guiding elementary students, I think that most of what the Goldstones demonstrate translates to the reading of any book. I have found myself thinking about their questions and methodology in the (adult) books I have read since finishing this one. I hope to utilize these methods in discussing books with my own kids and if I find myself teaching in a classroom setting again.

Why You Should Read This Book:

The Goldstones show how to get to the meat of any book you pick up. The themes in the books they choose for their book clubs are not light reading by any means, and the kids are extremely insightful. I love how they don’t “dumb down” reality and they let the kids make the observations themselves while gently guiding them to deeper understanding. The whole point of literature is to experience things that you otherwise wouldn’t, and then to act on it. If there’s no reason the author wrote the book, then it’s just popcorn and not really worth my time. 😉

The reading lists in the back of the book are full of great titles that promote thinking, discussion, and self-examination. If you have any interest at all in reading for more than just checking it off your list, you won’t be disappointed.


Photo credit/Amazon link:



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