During the hot summer of 1959, an 11-year old boy agreed to take over his best friend's paper route while his friend was visiting his grandparents' farm. He knew that throwing the newspaper would be a piece of cake ... after all, he was one of the best fast ball pitchers in Memphis. What scared him about it was the prospect of having to come face-to-face with his clients to tell them what they owed. For the paperboy, uncontrollable stuttering stopped his words in his throat, even as he tried to say his own name and that of his best friend.
With busy parents, the paperboy had been mostly raised by Mam after he turned five. It was this black housekeeper who became his first best friend, the one who understood him, helped him learn to deal with his stuttering, and shared her Christian faith with him as matter-of-factly as she cooked. Mam celebrated his extraordinary ability to write well. He admired her ability to speak clearly.
As he hypothesized, the paperboy had difficulty being understood by many on his paper route, and an alcoholic neighbor posed a confusing problem. What would happen when Mr. Spiro, a retired merchant marine, reached out to the paperboy? How could he know so much about his stuttering?
Will the paperboy find a magical cure that will free him to communicate his thoughts and feelings freely at last?
What will happen when real trouble surfaces after his bike is stolen and a dangerous junk man threatens his life? Will he and Mam survive the terrifying events that follow?
Will the paperboy ever be able to introduce himself by saying his own whole name aloud? What surprise do you think you will find when you discover the paperboy's real name toward the end of the story?
Paperboy by Vince Vawter earned well-deserved recognition as a 2014 Newbery Honor Book.
In the story's unusual mechanical format in Paperboy by Vince Vawter, you will glimpse the paperboy's struggle with stuttering; block formatted paragraphs substitute for quotes and quotation marks, and commas do not exist (reflecting the paperboy's disdain of commas). Readers learn to adapt to the absence quotes and commas as the paperboy has to adapt to the blocks that prevent his words from automatically flowing. We think readers will develop a new appreciation of these mechanics that enable reading to flow in traditional formats.
The story details the difficulties of the stutterer, the most difficult sounds to produce, the easiest sounds to produce, the reason why nicknames are so important to stutterers, and special actions a stutterer can take to free a blocked sound.
Paperboy could be the inspiration that ignites readers' understanding of why and how to write their own autobiographies and the desire to do so. Be sure to order a classroom set when you order our Kids Wings literature guide that is shareable within your school.
The Kids Wings activities for Paperboy were written by master teacher Suzy Red and come in both PowerPoint and PDF format for ease in projecting for large groups and printing for individual and small-group work. The activities include:
Pre- and Post- Reading Discussion Cards
Preparing Your Intellectual Tools, Dialectical Journal to develop independent learners
Where in the World?
Character Traits in the Story-3 pages
Personalized Character Studies
Readers Theater Script
2 Research Guides with Big 6 Sequence
Graphic Organizer: Chart the Story's Progress
4 Chapter Groups: Vocabulary Lists and Predict-Read-Confirm Chapter Questions
Multiple Choice and Short-Answer Chapter Questions
Visualization: Story Comprehension Through Art
3 Logic Puzzles
Illustrate Events in the Story
Matching Commas with Comma Rules
The Comma Song and Transposing Text to Standard English
Visualizing the Story
Using Photographs to Understand History
Wanted Posters for Civil Rights Marchers
Words of Wisdom: Relating Character Quotes to Chapter Groups
Discussion and Writing Prompts
Plus, a BONUS Interactive Jeopardy-type Game in PowerPoint format.
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