Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Club: Because of Winn-Dixie

Book Club discussion groups are a great way to get kids excited about books and discussing them. This is one of a series of posts sharing some of my favorite books for Book Club discussions. Please click on the "Book Club" tag to read more.

Because of Winn-Dixie

Because of Winn-Dixie (2000) by Kate DiCamillo is a new classic. The story of a girl, the new dog she discovers, and the new town she has to adapt to. Winner of the Newbery Honor Award. (This is another book that has been turned into a movie (2005), but I feel like this is a movie that disappeared shortly after being released. I haven't seen it.)


India Opal Buloni is lonely. Her absentee preacher father has moved them to a new town, and her mama left them when Opal was only three. She rescues and befriends the titular Winn-Dixie in the first chapter, and her new dog helps teach her some lessons about love, loss, and friendship.

Reading Level: 4.1
Guided Reading Level: R
Lexile Level: 610L

Big Ideas and Discussion Topics

  • Friendships and relationships. Much of the book revolves around Opal's issues with friendships, as well as her growing relationship with Winn-Dixie. This also includes friendships across age lines (with the older Miss Franny), across backgrounds (Otis, who has been to jail), and with peers (boys and girls).
  • Loss. Opal deals with the absence of her mother by asking her father questions and trying to memorize and hold onto these facts about her mother. Other characters also open up about their own experiences with loss, as Opal learns more about empathy.

Suggested Chapter Breakdowns

I usually use four to six sections for Book Club discussions with my students. They meet twice a week (often Tuesdays and Thursdays), which gives us two or three weeks to finish any given round. When I first started I had many more Book Club divisions, but I found that kids had a hard time sustaining interest in a book when it became incredibly drawn out.

  1. Chapters 1-5, pages 7-39
  2. Chapters 6-8, pages 40-59
  3. Chapters 9-12, pages 60-86
  4. Chapters 13-17, pages 87-117
  5. Chapters 18-21, pages 118-149
  6. Chapters 22-26, pages 150-182
[Please check page numbers against your own editions, as publishers sometimes change the size or shape of the book, which alters the page numbers.]

Do you have a favorite Kate DiCamillo book? This one is high up there, for me, but Edward still holds my heart. (Click here for more Book Club recommendations.)

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