Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Paying Homage to Read Aloud Day - Slice No. Eight

           The March Slice of Life Challenge at the Two Writing Teachers blog - Thanks Stacey and Ruth, for giving us this challenge.
 



Yesterday was World Read Aloud Day.  Mary Lee Hahn wrote a beautiful post on her blog, A Year of Reading, of why classroom teachers read aloud to their students.  I won’t try to say it again; her reasons are beautiful and persuasive.  However, I do have a brief story of a read aloud that turned into something so important in my classroom future.

One motivation I had when I chose the books to read aloud was to find a book that fits the class needs.  One year students in my class didn’t seem to be meshing very well into a community, and they were not supportive in ways that I thought important.  They didn’t show much sympathy for others, and needed help in walking around in other classmates’ shoes.  I chose to read the book My Left Foot by Christy Brown.  As we talked about his life, both the teasing he endured and the love he was given by family and some of his siblings’ friends, I was able to bring the stories into our own personal lives, to include the challenges others we knew faced every day.  The book brought us to realizations that people are able to face huge obstacles and bring joy into their lives despite those obstacles.   It was a book that changed the classroom feel, and I am convinced that reading the book together helped me guide the class community into a better understanding of others, and of themselves. 

For those of you who don’t know, I teach in an independent school and taught middle school aged children for many years.  I am now the literacy coach for my school.   When I taught I always had students for two years, sometimes three, before they left for high school.  The summer after I read My Left Foot, one of my students had a terrible accident and lost an arm.  Of course, I couldn’t have known this was going to happen, but the fact that the year previous this student had participated in all the discussions and had heard the book read with his returning classmates made all the difference in welcoming him back with the incredible challenges he was facing.  Was it serendipity?  Was there some higher power helping me choose this book?  I don’t know, but I do know that this and other books have helped me be a better teacher for my students.  This is just one example.  I imagine you who are teaching have one, too. 

34 comments:

  1. You speak the truth. I'd like to say that there is a magical book that I use each year but there's not. Each year I have to find a book that fits the groups needs. We are reading Because of Mr. Terupt right now...it's exactly what they need. Wondering if WONDER might be the next one. Again, the need for Empathy is very strong. I'll have to look into your reccomendation. Thank you!

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    1. Elizabeth, I loved Because of Mr. Terrupt. What a great choice for just what I'm talking about! Thanks for reminding me of it.

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  2. Thank you for this piece that gives us a chance to be part of your classroom community that year. The book was, of course, the perfect choice for that group. I like the idea of a Higher Power helping you choose. How else can we do what we do?

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  3. You are so right about the power of the read aloud. It brings the class together as a community, and that just builds all year. I think Elizabeth is on to something with Wonder, I also loved Mockingbird - two new books about empathy and acceptance to add to our list of read aloud experiences!

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  4. Reading aloud has such power. I think you have a sense about many things. Perhaps the universe gave a small nudge. But you as the teacher developed the leadership that would set the tone. Job well done!

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  6. Delete Comment From: TeacherDance




    Anita Ferreri said...
    Reading aloud is the single most important part of our teaching. Thank you for a ANOTHER couple of books to add to my Amazon cart - this SOL is going to be expensive - but I'll have lots to read when the next vacation rolls around

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  7. Linda, one of your many great gifts as a teacher has been the compassionate way you address the social and emotional needs of your students as they go through these often difficult middle school years. Your description of why you chose this book and the effect it had on your classroom is another example of why I admire and learn so much from you!

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  8. Oh - and we took turns reading "A Child's Garden of Verses" aloud at our house last night!

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    1. I loved and love "A Child's Garden of Verses"! I had to go and check my blog because I had started a post about it. Guess I didn't finish it though. Another day. But isn't it great. So many to love in it!

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  9. Love this slice. Reading absolutely prepares us better for life. I believe it can help make us better as people too. For example, my son read WONDER. We've had lots of talks about bullying since then - led by him. I know Auggie and his difference will always stay with him. Love your story, so sorry for your former student but that is amazing.

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  10. I often see connections between what I am reading aloud, and the circumstances around us. Sometimes it's because I purposely chose a book, sometimes it happens of its own accord. Thanks for sharing another example of this.

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  11. You gave me goose bumps as I got to the final paragraph. Read aloud is so important, and I cringe when middle grade teachers tell me they don't read to their kids. You have proof of the power. Awesome story (once again).

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  12. I may be trying a read aloud with my freshmen after they finish their novels...I know they need the exposure to good books--books that make them think. Just need to find the right one.

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  13. Love this. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. One never knows what comes from what we say or do. But a book is a wonderful place to begin. Books are life savers for sure.

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  15. Wow...the power of a great book...Crash (Spinelli) worked magic in my classroom of 7th graders. It seemed God ordained that you used this book !

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  16. Oh, yeah, it's God's way!
    I read aloud with my own children until they were quite old and quite able to read anything on their own. But there's just something about a good read aloud!

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  17. Powerful, Linda. I always hope the books I share will impact the children. You do that daily. The conversation around the book is powerful. Amazing how it helped in the future.

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  18. People's stories are important, both to be read aloud, but first they must be written. The power of a supportive community for "story" is greater then we will probably ever know. Thanks for sharing one example of this.

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  19. Linda, thank you for another inspirational story. I love using read alouds with my middle school students. I believe that not only do they allow us to connect as a community, read alouds give children time to reflect on the story and what it means to them. Sadly, many of my students don't come from homes where they were read to. I teach all grades 6-8, and they really seem to enjoy listening to an adult read to them. Your students are so fortunate to have a caring teacher like yourself.

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  20. What a beautiful story about the power of books, the power of read-alouds. The safe community of a classroom is excellent environment to take on some of the tougher topics in read-alouds. Early childhood educator Bev Bos recommends sharing picture books about death and illness early in the school year with very young children, to normalize a painful topic, to encourage healthy discussion by all. I believe there is much wisdom in this. Thank you for sharing!

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  21. Wow! That's an amazing story. I love being able to build community around books. It's amazing how effective books are at bringing us all together. It was great to read all the posts about read aloud. Talk about warm fuzzies. It's amazing how books are important to us and will travel with us as we go through life - whether it's not or later. Thanks for sharing!

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  22. Powerful story. I'm sure the student was grateful you read the book.

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  23. Wow, what a neat story! I love how you described the way you chose books to so carefully reach the needs of your class. How amazing that your book choice was able to reach so far beyond what you had in mind for it!

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  24. What a great story. Shows the power of books and how they can help so many relate to the pain of others. What a great lesson you shared with your students.

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  25. Linda, what a powerful story. Read aloud is an opportunity to build community, and by selecting the book with your students' needs in mind, and by selecting rich reading material, you gave them something that would be relevant to their lives in the future no matter what. It must have made you feel good to be there, with a community of readers who understood how to be empathetic when this boy returned to school. Thanks for another inspiring slice.

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  26. Loved this slice! Absolutely there is a higher power helping us pick those just-right reads. What a gift. Thank you for sharing the story.

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  27. First, can I just say how amazing I think you are with your commenting?!! The effort you put into each of your comments and the number of comments - everywhere I leave a comment, you've already been there. I'm so thankful that you are part of my writing community this March. Your thoughtfulness and insights really push me to be a better writer.

    That being said, this post today is amazing. I am hoping that by reading aloud Wonder, I can bring some of the same empathy to my students as you did for yours. How lovely.

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  28. Linda,
    What a wonderful story. I'm so happy to have found you and your blog--thanks to the Slice of Life Challenge. I will recommend this book to teachers at our school--sounds like a great pick with a promising purpose!
    Thanks!
    Janiel

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  29. Linda,
    Like the others before me, I echo their convictions that reading aloud to our students is one of the most important if not the most important part of their school days. It is surely my favorite time especially when the book is stitching our lives together as we connect and bond with the characters and each other. Right now we are reading Bud Not Buddy. I know this book has been around for a while, but I had never read it before. We are falling in love with Bud and having rich conversations together. I always love visiting your blog. I know I will leave a little wiser and inspired by your stories. Thanks.
    ~ Theresa

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  30. Power of a story. Power of Life. Powerful slice.
    I work in international school and our student population is diverse. One of the books I like to read to my students is "Something Else" by Kathryn Caver.

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  31. Thank you to all who commented & who might read & not comment. I've put a list of recommendations for read alouds in a page you can access at the top of the blog. If you have others to add, let me know!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!