A few days ago someone shared the quote below by someone I greatly admire – the great Donalyn Miller (and if you don’t know who she is, you NEED to follow her on twitter).
For me, this really summed up the reasoning behind why I do read alouds in my classroom. I have a passion for reading myself and instilling a love of reading in my students is a goal I have each year. I won’t lie, it can be a challenge usually at the beginning of the year because many of them come from a more structured reading background – they are used to book bins full of books with letters on them, they are used to reading logs and reading response sheets. What they soon realize is reading looks a bit different in our classroom. I talk about finding “just right” books and how we are all on a reading journey where some of us will be in one spot and some of us might be further ahead or a little behind. However, the one thing that will bring us together is a love of books, reading books, going on adventures, learning about new worlds when we open the pages of a book.
In the years I have done read alouds, my students and I have traveled through many stories together and met such amazing characters. There are some that have a special place in my heart though. One such story I read was Stick and Stone, a wonderful picture book by Beth Ferry. This simple little story was so beautifully warm and funny. It was amazing to see the connections my students made to the characters and how many felt they were like stone – a little quiet, a little shy but when the going got tough, they were there. Some felt more like stick – ready to stick up for a friend when someone picked on them.
Right now, I just finished reading The 13 Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and it’s funny. I was unsure whether I would read this story mostly because it was a silly book, far fetched and full of craziness. But I felt it fit in with our building and creating theme, so I decided to give it a whirl. Well, the laughs and giggles we all had together as we read this wonderfully nonsensical story were nonstop. There was honestly times I had to stop reading because we were all laughing so hard we needed to take a moment just to stop and catch a breath. We were all honestly sad when the story came to an end. It was quite entertaining to see what happened when I came in this morning and laid The 26 Story Treehouse on my desk because I went out and got it from the bookstore last night. My students were so excited, yet perturbed with me because I explained we would not have time to start the book this day. I have promised we will start for sure on Monday!!
When you read a book together with your students, you are sharing your joy of reading with your class and it is something that will catch on. Last year I read both The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The One and Only Ivan to my class, both beautiful books that are a staple of my class library. For each, there are parts that are heart-wrenching to read and when we got to those parts of the story, you could have heard a pin drop all my students were so invested in what was happening at that point in the story. I won’t lie, I am a crier, so when I read these parts and the tears fell, my students were all like “Mrs. D. is crying!! ” One student actually got up and got me a Kleenex. I explained to them that sometimes this happened to me when I get so close to a character, that it almost feels real and so I cry and that it’s okay to feel that way if the story brings that out. The rich discussions that came out – how many agreed that they were sad about what happened or mad that this or that happened was so great to share and hear. (and for those that feel younger students do not have the maturity to connect or understand these tougher themes I offer this)
The great thing that came from doing these stories with my students is how they then went home and talked about these books with their families. I had quite a few parents come to me to say they were going to go to the library to get these books themselves because they wanted to see the book their children were talking about so much when they came home. (and how awesome is that!!).
I guess at the end of it all, I do read alouds because it is a way I can connect with my students and hopefully install in them a love of reading in them too. And shouldn’t this be a goal we all have?