System 44
The Book That Got My Reluctant Readers Hooked!

I waited until the fourth quarter of the school year to introduce a class book to my READ 180  Level 1 students because I didn't believe the class was ready to decode and comprehend a book on a class level.  I teach a mixed READ 180/System 44 class, and my students' reading levels greatly vary.  At the start of April, however, I decided that it was time to connect and unify my class with a book that I believed they would love. The book I chose is Buddy by MH Herlong. With direct and "creative" systematic instruction, my students achieved success with not only decoding the text but understanding and applying certain elements of the plot and themes to their lives.

The book Buddy by MH Herlong was a hit, and it was exactly what my students needed to end the year proving that they did, indeed make a "180" with their reading skills for the year.

I created an Interactive Journal of the book where my students could record their reflections on the main themes and points relating to the chapters which included notes about the:

  •       Setting
  •       Characters
  •       Plot
  •       Point of View
  •       Symbolism/Imagery/Motifs
  •       Mood
  •       Conflict: Internal and External
  •       Rising Action
  •       Climax
  •      Falling Action
  •      Outcome (Resolution)
  •      Themes
  •      Quotes- Important quotations and analysis

Providing this journal, eliminated the time students would ordinarily take to record "notes" about a text.  Having the notes provided for them also allowed more time in class to discuss the book and analyze not only its vocabulary terms but the plot and theme of its message as well.

This class book culminated in a project where students presented on a topic of their choice to their peers, other faculty members, and administration.  The author, Madaline Herlong, also got a photo-view and video of their work and commented on how their presentations were "fantastic" and to sincerely thank the students for reading Buddy and becoming friends with its two main characters: Li'lT and Buddy.

Buddy by MH Herlong has won numerous awards including:

  • 2013 Great Stone Face Award- Grades 4-6 (Winner)
  • 2014 Black-Eyed Susan Award - Grades 4-6 (Nominee)
  • 2014 South Carolina Childrens, Junior and Young Adult Book Award - Children's Winner
  • 2015 Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Award - Grades 6-8 (Honor Book)
  • 2015 Volunteer State Book Award - Intermediate (Nominee)
  • 2015 William Allen White Childrens Book Award - Grades 6-8 (Winner)
  • 2016 Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award - Grades 6-8 (Nominee)


Buddy is a beautifully- written, inspiring and hopeful book about a boy (Li'lT), his dog (Buddy) and a hurricane (Katrina).  It brings young readers to Katrina in a moving and compassionate way. The chapters, text complexity, and length of the book all assist in making this an enjoyable read for readers and "non-readers" alike. The book's Lexile is a 670, and the length of the book is 256 pages. Both genders, ages 9 and up, will be able to relate to LilT's story and will desire to read this book, over and over again, both in and outside the classroom.

The book also has a website for teachers that is replete with fun and interesting lesson ideas and activities that connect to the book. http://www.mhherlong.com/home/author/ and


A trailer for the book was also created to give students a first-hand look at the major characters (LilT and Buddy) and the devastating impact Hurricane Katrina had on New Orleans.

I strongly suggest that you read this book and offer it as a Class Book selection sometime in the new school year.  It is a book that will not only move you but also propel your students to fall in love with reading.  It is a book that shows students that reading can take people to places that reach into their hearts and beyond.

System 44 Educator