If you found this blog post, thanks for checking it out. I’m so excited to have my own website up and out there. BrianSmithSpeaks.com is the result of lots of hard work by a lot of people. I am so appreciative of all the people who believed in my ability to speak to their groups, even when I still saw myself as the super shy kid in high school who barely spoke to anyone. I hope you will check out the site and contact me if you have any questions.
But, for now, you are at my BrianSmithSpeaks blog and I am so excited that I have this opportunity to share books and series that I adore. I’ve had an idea for a lot of years that I would love to do a podcast where I interview authors but my idea, which I would call “In the Artist Studio”, has had some interest, but it hasn’t come to fruition so I’ve decided that I would use this blogging platform to share my interactions with authors.
Up first, is Jeremy Brunaccioni. Jeremy is a elementary school teacher, who has taught over half his years in a Kindergarten classroom. As a male kindergarten teacher, it is always great to meet others and I was super excited to get to spend some time with him getting a behind the scenes look at how he created his Finn Book series of early readers.
BrianSmithSpeaks.com (BSS) - The books in your series, Finn Books, are great. What gave you the idea of using Finn as the main character for these leveled readers.
Jeremy Brunaccioni (JB) - When I'm teaching reading to my students I've noticed how students love books in a series and revisiting familiar characters. There seemed to me to be a spot in the market for a series of books at the very first levels of reading. Over the years it got to the point where I thought why not give writing leveled books a try and using Finn seemed like a natural fit. I didn't even need to change his name. (As an added bonus), the sight word "in," is in "Finn."
BSS - Who is Finn? What kind of dog is he and how old is he? Were the photos for these books the first time that Finn has been part of something like this?
JB - Finn is a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, a breed from Ireland. He turned 7 at Christmas, so he's 47 in human years. He weighs about 40 pounds. His age has not slowed him down at all. He loves to run around the house, flipping over the carpets. Finn is also hypoallergenic, meaning less sneezing for me. If he wants to be petted, he will use his paws to tug at your arm. This was the first time he was photographed for a project.
BSS - How many books are in the Finn series?
JB - There are currently 9 books in the Finn series, all featuring Finn.
BSS - What reading levels are currently represented in your series?
JB - There are currently 3 level A books, 3 level B books and 3 level C books. More titles are in the works for levels D, E and F.
BSS - What made you want to do a leveled series of books starting with A because these lower level books can be so restricting to write?
JB - I was surprised by how restricting it was to write lower level books but I saw a need. I want my students to not only be able to read but to love reading. That's why I try to include humor in each of the titles. That might mean having giant vegetables in one book, showing Finn balancing a flower on his nose or having him dress up in winter clothing. During the photoshoot for Finn Goes Out, the winter hat flopped over his face. We decided to use the shot in the book because it was funny. Children really connect with that gentle humor.
The reason the lower books are so challenging to write is that you're limited to the words and sentence structures you can use. Levels A through C are all making use of a core 25 sight words. You have to pay attention to line and word spacing, font and font size and return sweep. I know how busy teachers are so I made sure the back cover of the books featured the complete text. That way teachers could quickly see sight words and text patterns without having to flip through the books.
BSS - The text on the back is one of my favorite things about your series of books! It makes it so convenient. What plans do you have for the series in the future?
JB - The plans for the future are to get levels D, E and F into print and keep expanding titles and levels from there.
BSS - I love the details in the books. The dog bone page numbers is just one example of the details that my students always comment on because they love the attention to details. Did you do the photography too?
JB - My dad is a graphic designer. He does all of the photography and design work for the books. The color coding for levels and dog bone page numbers are just some of the extras he's able to bring to the series.
BSS - How can someone get Finn books to use with their beginning readers?
JB - You can follow Finn on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, as well as find out more about him at www.FinnBooks.com There you can find a sample book, book covers and titles and how to write to Finn. Finn will write back to your classroom.
Books can be purchased individually or as 6 packs for guided reading lessons.
BSS - Thank you so much for taking the time to share your behind the scenes with me! My students love these books and we use them all the time!
These books are leveled sight word books. As an author note, I want to point out that parents need to be very careful when choosing books for their beginning readers to read. There are a lot of leveling systems out there and some are better than others. Reach out to a teacher, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about a specific book and the appropriateness of it for your reader.
Be sure to check back to this blog to find out what really happens “In the Artist Studio”. In the meantime, check out my Scholastic Top Teaching blog for some great books and fun activities.
I can’t wait to see you next time.