Hey, I have a new book out! National Geographic School Publishing used a true story about my previous Seeing Eye dog Harper in a new supplementary textbook called Lend Me a Paw, and it was just published last month. Lend Me a Paw is part of National Geographic School Publishing’s new Ladder Series, which they describe as a “laddered approach to leveled readers in order to differentiate for a shared experience.”
Let me try to explain. Levelers at National Geographic School Publishing took my story “One Smart Dog” and produced it in four different reading levels:
- above level,
- on level,
- 1 grade below level, and
- 2 grades below level.
Each book is laid out exactly the same — the photographs and graphics are identical in each version, but the wording and sentence structure varies to match the reading level of the reader. Above-level readers might read one version, and students in the same classroom who are still working out vocabulary and grammar can tackle a version that is less complicated. Their web site describes it like this: “Same great content, four different reading levels.” In the end, a classroom of kids with different reading skills will all be able to discuss the content together as a class.
Still with me? Maybe an example will help. Here’s the intro to the story I wrote:
I’m blind. Even when my eyes are open, all I see is the color black. So I use my other senses to do things I enjoy, like writing books. My computer is adapted with assistive technology for people who are blind. A robotic voice parrots the letters I type, and I use my sense of hearing to listen to what I write. When I’m finished with a story, I press a button, and…voila! My computer reads what’s on the screen, and I can hear – and fix—my mistakes.
I do most of my writing at home, but I travel to interview people and research stories. That’s where Harper comes in.
And here is that section with the content adjusted for striving readers:
I’m blind, so I use my other senses to write books. My computer has a special program for people who are blind. A voice repeats the letters I type. It also reads what’s on the screen. I write at home, but sometimes I travel, too. That’s where Harper comes in.
Another example. Here’s what I wrote for above-level readers, from later on in the story:
Harper and I were heading down a city sidewalk once when he stopped for no reason. Well, no reason that I could come up with. I felt ahead with my foot. Nothing there. I waved my arm in front of me. No barricade. “Harper, forward!” I urged. I had an appointment, and I didn’t want to be late. “Hup, hup!” Harper stood motionless. “Right, right!” I tried, hoping Harper might scurry me around whatever he saw in the way. No luck.
Just then I heard a truck door slam. Heavy footsteps hurried toward us. “Watch out, ma’am! Stay put!” The truck driver offered his arm.
And now, here’s that same part for readers who are one grade below level:
Harper and I were walking along a city sidewalk. All of a sudden he stopped. I felt ahead with my foot. Nothing there. I waved my arm in front of me. Nothing there, either. “Harper, forward!” I urged. Harper did not move. “Right, right!” I tried. No luck. Just then I heard a truck door slam. Someone hurried toward us. “Watch out, ma’am!” The truck driver offered his arm.
What harm did Harper see in front of us? What danger had he saved us from? Guess you’ll have to order the book to find out!
Textbooks in this new Ladders program cover some of the Common Core Standards (a set of education standards adopted by 40+ states) for English Language Arts. Elementary school teachers who have some students in class who are learning English have told me this laddered approach could come in handy for them, too. I’m guessing it could be used in adult literacy classes as well.
Lend Me a Paw isn’t available commercially, but you can purchase copies on line for around $6 a copy. . Here’s a hint: when I ordered mine, I had better luck phoning my order in at 1-888-915-3276. Ask for isbn number 978-07362-95116.
P.S. If I look unusually tall in the photos, don’t blame the National Geographic photographer. I wrote the story last summer after I broke my foot, and when it came time for the photo shoot, I was sporting orthopedic shoes with three-inch soles. My podiatrist insisted I wear those clodhoppers for weeks after my cast came off!