Book Review: Another Look at “You Gotta BE the Book” by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm

By Selia Lee Garza

In Jeffrey D. Wilhelm’s You Gotta BE the Book, he describes several different activities that he tried with his students in order to try to get them interested in reading. The activity that I found the most interesting was Symbolic Story Representation.  With this activity the students are supposed to create cutouts of things that they feel are important to the story and use them to dramatize the story. 

This activity really got my attention because I think it is a good step up from a current project that I have undertaken with my students.   I took an idea that I learned this semester in school and incorporated it with my class.  We read the story Who Stole the Wizard of Oz by Avi and then created a Story Ray about it. In the story ray the students were placed in groups of four or five and given two chapters of the story to visually represent.  They were asked to draw things that they felt were important in the story and use colors that they felt represented the feelings throughout. They were then asked explain why they chose the colors and drawings that they used. My students struggled to explain some of their choices. I understand that it was the first time that we were doing this but I feel that they may have been more comfortable acting out the story with the things that they chose to draw than just stand in front of the class and explain why they chose each particular item and/or color.  I also feel that both of these activities allow the students that struggle with reading and writing to shine in an activity that lets them used their strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses.

Wilhelm describes in much detail how the incorporation of the SRI in his classes went.  This is helpful because it allows us the see theory in practice.  Many ideas sound great but only because they are set in an ideal environment. As a teacher I like to see how ideas really work out in a real classroom setting where there are students that hate reading and do not participate in most class activities. I want to see reluctant students that are actually enticed to participate by a new idea.  These are the ideas that I want to use in my classroom to reach my struggling students.

With all this said, I feel that I could wholeheartedly recommend this book to any teacher that is interested in finding literature that is helpful and truthful in terms of the actual implementation of new ideas.


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