Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo is a novel about a girl named Opal who rescues a dog who she names Winn-Dixie. Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother, one for each year Opal has been alive. Winn-Dixie is better at making friends than anyone Opal has ever known, and together they meet the local librarian, Miss Franny Block, who once fought off a bear with a copy of War and Peace. They also meet Gloria Dump, who is nearly blind but sees with her heart, and Otis, an ex-con who sets the animals in his pet shop loose after hours, then lulls them to sleep with his guitar. Opal spends all that sweet summer collecting stories about her new friends and thinking about her mother. This is one of my favorite books and I would give this books ten stars if I could. Needless to say, I would highly recommend this book!
Guided Reading: Level R
Have your student pretend to be Opal and write a letter to her mother telling her all about life since moving to Naomi, Florida with her father. Letters should focus on describing the people she has met and the experiences she has had, plus whether she likes living in Naomi more now than when she first got there (and why). Teachers will be able to sense the extent to which the student read and understood the book from the letter than they produce.
For artistically inclined students... Have students imagine a map of the town of Naomi, placing different places mentioned in the book on the map. Locations are NOT clearly specified, so the student can create the map however they please. Instruct the student to include 15-20 people, places, and events from the book on the map. A person can be shown in more than one place at a time (ie: Otis at the pet store +Otis elsewhere playing music on the street).