On Friday splattypus and I weren't really feeling that well. It had been a LONG week, colds were going around, report cards were due, ieps were looming, paperwork needed to be done, and somehow we still had to keep some sort of order over our children for the next 4 days. (Before the snow storm hit my school was scheduled to be in session until Wednesday! Wednesday! Someone in the central office is very Scrooge-like).
I got to her class in time for our typical reading workshop block and slowly pulled out my supplies for guided reading. I wallowed through the book "Monkeys can..." as much as I could, acting like it was prize winning material, when in actuality it made me want to poke my eyes out. But, with beginning readers, especially beginning readers who are struggling- teacher excitement is everything. One has to make each and every book seem like the best. book. ever. And convince each new reader that they are embarking on a reading adventure with this very special book. Yes. So, Monkeys can... Monkeys can swing. Monkeys can run. Monkeys can hang. Lovely.
I finished with my group and made one of those teacher decisions you don't admit to anyone.
I decided not to meet with anymore groups.
The other groups are pretty strong readers for kindergarten- they would live if I didn't read with them this one day. Instead I made my way over to a group of children at the library book center. I book-talked with a couple of them until a little girl came up, plopped down on the rug, and pulled out a version of Little Red Riding Hood. She held the book like a teacher would, turning each page and pointing out the wolf's crazy antics to her five year old peers. Since this little one is just learning English I decided to prompt her along, encouraging her to tell the story to me by looking at the pictures. I hung on every word as she carefully pointed out each careful detail.
Then I asked if I could read it to her.
Slowly, as I turned each page, a few more children joined us. We read, and re-read the pages- shook our fingers at that naughty wolf, read in high-pitched voices as the granny and in low-deep voices as the wolf. I'd read and then we'd "read" it again together, becoming part of the book. When Red Riding Hood was freed from the wolf we moved on to Knuffle Bunny (oh how we aggle-flaggle-klabbled together), we lectured "No, David" together and told the stories of why David was in trouble by looking at the pictures.
I was sad to look up at the clock and realize my hour in the room was over.
I love books, I love reading, and more than anything I love sharing books with children. Those moments on the carpet, intimately embracing each book and loving it for the glorious story it was- those are the moments that make children readers. Sure I could have met with my reading groups, and it would have been fine, but just for that day, at that time, our small group came together to remember why we're working so hard to learn to read. Our group was a mix of good readers and struggling readers, children who speak fluent English and those who didn't hear English spoken until the first day of school. Yet together we had the shared experience of wonderful stories, laying the quiet groundwork for all those other literacy skills needed in life.
It's those experiences I know so many children from middle-class homes have- sharing a book with an adult as though it is gold. I wish I could go to each of my children's homes, curl up with them in a big chair, and repeat Friday's experience.