Read to them…yes, even the older ones

It isn’t where I wanted to be. I had requested Kindergarten for a reason. After dealing with parent accounts for five years, I needed a breath of innocence. Someone who would tell me a story, because it was simply bursting out of them and couldn’t be held back. I just knew this was my audience. A group who loved to be read to. A group that would quiet down the minute they saw a book in your hand. A group that you could be silly with and do all of the voices. I particularly love doing the voices.

Well, I got my wish for exactly two months. The good parts were everything that I had dreamed they would be. The bad parts were not anything that I had imagined would ever happen to me. Oh, not the kids. They were as adorable as expected. In fact, I miss them to this day. It was the behavior of the other teacher that reduced me to tears in the principal’s office. The solution, she decided upon was to move me.

I was devastated. I had been so excited to work with the Kinders. Now the plan was a combination pullout 4/5 language arts class. They asked the six teachers who their lowest kids were and gave them to me. As an educator, let me reassure you reader, that this never should have happened and was a bad idea. I did voice my opinions on this. In fact, it was noted on my yearly review that I was “uncooperative” with management and my raise was reduced to cost of living because I spoke my mind.

I tell you all of this, so that you will know the motivations of all involved. You have kids being pulled from their regular class, to come to me. Not because they have an SST or an IEP. Nope, just simply because it was decided to be a good idea by the principal. She also tasked me with coming up with my own curriculum. So, I’m coming up with something from scratch, and the kids are leaving their peers and not getting to do what their class is doing. No one involved is getting a fair shake in this deal.

As I was trying to decide a plan of attack for this class, I decided on one thing from the very beginning. There must be all different types of reading. Independent, whole class, with a partner, with a group and read alouds. I wanted to saturate them with reading. Plus, I knew that different kinds would serve different purposes. Students who are struggling with reading, really need to hear how a story sounds when it is read smoothly. Too often they will not understand a sentence, simply because their reading is choppy due to not knowing or mispronouncing a word or ignoring punctuation.

Before the bulk of the class came in, I was sent Amari and Anthony for a few weeks as a “trial run”. That is what I like to call it. Really, their teacher wasn’t getting any work out of them, so in frustration, he asked if they could start early. It was great for me, because I got to try out some things before the others arrived after Christmas break. Right before the break, the three of us went to the school library together to pick out a book. They plan was to read the book and talk about it when we got back. The book they agreed upon was The Magician’s Nephew.

So, over the break, I started the book. I wasn’t that happy with the choice. I’m not a huge fan of fantasy. But, it immediately drew me in. When I returned back, I found out that I had been the only one reading. Amari and Anthony looked at me like I was crazy to have expected them to read over the break. Shouldn’t I have known better? Wishful thinking on my part.

Now the class was really starting, and I decided to read The Magician’s Nephew to them. I did it for two reasons. I already had it and I kind of ended up liking the book. I had some who were into it. I had some who I had to stop from playing around while I read. I had some instances of noticing them watching the clock the entire time. Was it really working? Were they getting anything out of it? I went through some days when we simply didn’t have time. Or due to field trips, or illness or other school activities, I only had one or two students. On those days, the story sat waiting.

Then the best thing happened. We ended up leaving off on a cliff hanger one day as it was time for them to go to lunch. You should have heard the outroar. “You can’t do this to us!” “We have to know what happens!” I smiled, for I knew that simply and silently, it was working. Even though they had pretended not to care or not to listen, they were doing both. But the best part was yet to come.

We had to wait a week at the very end of the book. Mia was sick and I refused to finish without her. The boys asked every day and I kept stalling. I knew that she would be upset and I was right. When I read the final part, she came alive! When it talks about the tree being made into the wardrobe, she started telling us all about the first part of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, of which she had seen the movie.

Even though there is only three weeks of school left, I took a gamble and started reading the next book. Now they don’t even bother to pretend to be bored. They sit quietly, hanging on every word, just waiting for more of the story. In fact, the other day, they were supposed to be illustrating their own books, which they could certainly do while they were listening, but they refused. They were so into the story, just gobbling it up. In fact, it is now the first thing they ask for when they walk in the door. “Are you going to read the book today?”

Summer is approaching. Kids will be out of school. People will be busy going places. Why not take a book along for those lazy moments when everyone is tired from the day’s activities? Or when the night gets cooler, throw a blanket outside and snuggle in for a story? There is a certain magic involved when a book get read aloud. And don’t forget to do the voices. You know you want to.