Louis Sachar, the beloved author of Holes Teacher Resources Button, has made his way into my third-grade classroom courtesy of Sideways Stories from Wayside School Teacher Resources Button and solidified his place among my students’ favorite authors. Sideways Stories from Wayside School had been boxed up, sitting in a corner of my Sideway Stories from Wayside Schoolclassroom closet for over two years, until I desperately scrounged around for a class set of a novel. Lo and behold, I unpacked serendipity! My students found it outright hilarious, and I found it met my Common Core needs. The book kept students engaged and encouraged connections to real life. Because of this book, I found Louis Sachar to be ideal for an author study with my third-graders.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School is their “in” to the author. With 30 chapters in the book, each one dedicated to the wacky adventures of a different student at Wayside School, my students can find at least one character (often more) they can relate to that keeps them engrossed. One chapter a day quickly had my students asking for more. They didn’t want to put the book down.

Class favorites from the book include Jason, who gets stuck to his seat with bubble gum until Joy kisses his nose. Another is Terrence, a bully who pushes his way into games on the playground. He keeps kicking the balls over the fence until one day Louis picks him up and throws HIM over the fence! And the students love Sammy, who is covered up by at least six raincoats on a very rainy day, smelling awfully terrible, until Mrs. Jewls peels off all those raincoats and finds it isn’t the real Sammy after all.

There are so many characters in Sideways Stories you’d think the students would have a hard time keeping them straight. But I’ve taught my students to keep a reading journal and write three important things about each character on a separate page. Even after 30 characters, the students know how to separate the important events from the many details and are able to remember character names and summarize their stories.

This journaling, along with the book’s Teacher Resources from Booksource, helps the students and me work on our comprehension strategies. Suggestions for connecting, questioning, summarizing and visualizing are listed right in the resource, asking questions like “What makes all of these Louis Sacharcharacters so wacky? Does the school have anything to do with their craziness?” and “What do you picture when you read about Wayside School? Draw a picture of the school and at least one of the characters.”

Also included in the resource are helpful links to get readers more involved in the story and author. One link included is an author bio found on Louis Sachar’s official website. This bio helps me introduce the author as a real person and gets students making connections to their own life stories. In the bio, Louis says he lived in New York until he was in third grade. His dad worked on the 78th floor of the Empire State Building, and he thinks that somehow planted a seed in his mind for Wayside School. In college, he earned three hours of credit as a teacher’s aide and noontime supervisor, also known as “Louis the Yard Teacher.” All the kids at Wayside School were based on kids he knew at the school where he worked. So another question I love to ask my students is, “Which character in the book do you think represents Louis?”

Even though Holes may be a bit too advanced for my third-graders, we still may try it. For now, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, and his other Wayside books, are easy ways to get young readers familiar with one author’s approach to writing and help them feel comfortable when introduced to more advanced stories by a familiar name.