Saturday, August 1, 2009


It's August 1st, and I'm starting to think about school (OK, actually I don't think I ever stopped). I don't know why, but I always spend more time thinking about the kids who don't like reading than those who do. I imagine my classroom. I pick my first read aloud- it has to be terrific, the one my kids will still be talking about in May. I think about what books will stand up on the top of the bookshelves, inviting readers to visit. I peruse the sale flyers, sure these cool CU Buff beanbag chairs will invite a kid or two to read.

I think a lot about the conversations we will have those first few days and how they will shape us as reading community. This morning, I read Donalyn Miller's column, "Every Reader Tells a Story." In the article, Miller talks about how her mom banned bedtime reading after Donalyn burned her ear one night when she fell asleep reading with a flashlight. Miller believes that every reader has those "stories of origin." She will begin the school year by telling her stories, and inviting her students to share theirs.

I totally agree with Donalyn. All readers have stories. Communities begin with stories. It makes sense, then, to start the year by asking our readers to tell their reading stories. I'm not sure, yet, what story I will tell. I might talk about the day I remember actually learning to read- when I could read the words on the last page of HOP ON POP. Or I might talk about going to visit Mrs. Holly at the bookmobile each Monday afternoon. Or maybe I will tell the story of my family's hot summer road trips. I was ok with being crammed between my sisters on the hot vinyl seats in those pre-air conditioning days, because I knew when we got to Chicago, my grandmother, a Chicago librarian for many, many years, would have a pile of wonderful books waiting for me. And then there is the story of the day my mom took me to the doctor, sure I had a fatal disease, because I had created a bald spot on my head from twisting my hair like Ellen Tebbits did. Or I could tell about how I always hid a book in my lap and read when the action was a little too slow in school.

I'm imagining myself telling these stories, and inviting kids to tell their stories. I'm thinking however, that my story telling might begin a little differently. I've thought a lot about the role of picture and image this summer. I've been especially taken by the number of children's book illustrators using collage as their medium. I'm imagining, then, that I will begin my intervention groups with stories, but they will be stories told in collage. I'll start by telling one of my reading stories, creating a collage as I go along. I will show the kids other samples of collage, e.g. illustrators like Mo Willems' Knufflebunny books, and the work of David Diaz and Lauren Child. Then I will invite the children to select one of their reading stories and create collages, using a bunch of materials- construction paper, magazines, markers and crayons, and whatever else I think might grab them. Afterwards, we will tell these stories, then maybe write them, and display them for everyone. I'm trying to get brave and take the plunge with a class wiki this year, so maybe the reading stories will even be our first post on our wiki pages.

Lots to think about in August…

1 comment:

Laura Lynn Benson said...

August is a very pregnant month...full of radiant large that some are a bit scary, too. I love how you approach each teaching step with such hope and love. Gosh, your students are lucky ducks!
Love 'ya xo