For the love of reading

When our second grade team had quarterly planning, one of the subs didn’t show and I was summoned to cover the class for a while. I knew there would be sub plans.

But I brought three books with me anyway.

I gave a quick book talk and let the class choose which one to hear. The high vote-getter was A Deal’s a Deal, the story of two little rabbits swindling each other while trading toy cars. There’s a (delightfully disgusting) surprise ending, which is why I brought this book; it never fails to elicit big belly laughs and loud cries of EEEWWWWWW!

I wanted, in my few moments with these kids, for them to experience the joy of reading. I love to watch children’s faces while I read aloud; it is my favorite thing to do, next to writing with them.

A read-aloud, done well, is a theatrical performance. The kids hung on every word, they could feel the action building, they covered their faces, they howled and hollered EEEWWWWWWW!


Then they went to work on the activities left for them.

I walked the room, well-aware that teachers are trying their best to adhere to a new curriculum that offer less individual reading and writing choices. I watched the children at their tasks. I watched the clock … and decided to set my timer.

“All right, you have a few minutes left to finish this work before my time with you is up. Let’s get it done, and I will read you the book that got the second-highest vote.”

In short order, the work was done, desks cleared, random things on the floor picked up. They gathered at my feet to hear The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend.

I first encountered this book in a summer writing institute for teachers. Our guest author, Matt de la Peña, used it as an example of perspective, asking what’s the story really about, who’s it really about. There was a good bit of debate, as I recall …

But I didn’t set it up this way with the kids.

I just read, letting the words and the illustrations work their magic.

Turned a page, heard the collective Oooohhhh.

Saw light playing on their faces, wonder in their eyes.

I savored them as they savored this book on friendship and imagination.

Whispering in my mind: You were my first friend, too. My oldest and my dearest, even now.

All too soon we reached the end of the book, if not the end of Beekle’s and his friend’s adventures. And here’s the interesting thing: the kids knew who the story was really about, what it was really about, something I’d watched grown-ups—teachers—struggle with.

As I prepared to leave, the children gravitated to the stuffed Beekle who’d been sitting off to the side by himself. He usually sits on my bookcase in my room, an outlier amid all my Harry Potter memorabilia. At the last minute I’d grabbed him and brought him along.

Seems he was here by design, waiting for every child in turn to embrace him, in the way that only children can.

15 thoughts on “For the love of reading

  1. Read alouds are such special moments with students, especially when the book allows each time to “hang on its words”. Thanks for sharing your passion for reading, Fran. You should really consider Margaret’s offer to join the Progressive Poem fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just jumped on board for the kidlit poem – what a fun venture! For the record: I could read well by first grade but I didn’t fall in love with reading until fourth grade, when the teacher read aloud two classics to us. It changed my life. Figuring out how to slice about that. 🙂


  2. Because I have such a short time to teach each class in the library–15 to 20 minutes, tops, to allow time to checkout–I feel the need to make most the the read-alouds to K-2 interactive, pre-loading with Depth and Complexity icons, stopping to model questioning, asking for inferences and predictions. But every once in awhile….I read just to share the story, and I get to experience what you did here.
    Thanks for spreading that magic around.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those things – questioning, making inferences, etc. – are natural to the reading process. So much stuff happens all at one time … kids do need support with that and to hear an experienced reader “thinking aloud.” I added comments in my read-alouds, here and there. It’s part of creating the atmosphere. Incidentally – both books could serve as mentor texts for writing. Thanks, Chris.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “And here’s the interesting thing: the kids knew who the story was really about, what it was really about, something I’d watched grown-ups—teachers—struggle with.”

    They always do, don’t they?


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