Tuesday, May 26, 2015
SLICE OF LIFE
It all started with THERE IS A BIRD ON YOUR HEAD.
I read it to the first grade one day when Kathy, their teacher had to leave early and I was covering the class at the end of the day. You probably know BIRD- it's one of the earliest in Mo Willems' Gerald and Piggie series. It's also one of my favorites. I can read it to first graders. And fourth graders. And even eighth graders. It's just silly funny. And fun. It makes me laugh. And it makes the kids laugh.
So I read it to the first graders. A few weeks before they started our district's first grade author study. Who happens to be Mo Willems. And it started something. The first graders are Mo Willems' groupies!
Every time I walk into their classroom, the first graders think I'm there to read Mo Willems. The author study has been over for several weeks, but they won't let Kathy take down the Mo Willems shelf- they're not done with the books. Frantic book waving six-year-olds chase me down the hall to tell me about the Mo Willems' books they found at Reading Rocket (the mobile library that comes to our school every Thursday). They remind me, on a pretty much daily basis, that Mo Willems is one of my favorite authors and now he is one of theirs too.
I wasn't surprised, then, when Mo's name came up again last week. I had gone into first grade to pick up a student for testing. I was standing by the reading table, waiting for Kathy to pull her testing materials, when J. approached.
"Dr. Carol, does Mo Willems have any new books? Because we have read all of these," he said, gesturing to the shelf containing at least twenty Mo Willems' books.
"Umm, I'm not sure, J, but we could probably look on his website and find out. Should we try that?"
I sit down and set up my laptop on the reading table. Immediately I am surrounded by ten Mo Willems groupies. They have heard their favorite author's name and want to be included in the discussion.
We scan the website. I think new books might be posted on Mo's blog, but they are not. Instead, we discover that Mo has an exhibit opening at a museum in Atlanta. Immediately, the first graders think we should take a field trip. They are also ready to see the Gerald and Piggie play in Chicago. Unfortunately, we do not find any new books. Fifteen minutes later, I move on to my testing.
A little later, I am waiting for a meeting with the fourth grade teachers. The Mo Willems' website is still open on my computer, so I poke around a little more. On a page called "Get Mo' Stuff!" I discover that there actually are three new books, one in English and two in Spanish, coming out on June 2nd. And I know we have to have them. Before our last day on June 6th.
Just before lunch, I make my way back to the first grade classroom. Kathy rolls her eyes when she sees me coming. I announce my discovery to the first grade and show them the picture of the cover. They are thrilled.
"Can you go get it? Will you order it?" they ask. I explain, again, that it won't be available for about ten days. But that I will order it. And we will read it the last week of school. They are over-the-moon ecstatic. And ask me, repeatedly, throughout the week, if I have ordered the book. And when it will come. They even know the title.
Our DRA scores are not as good as we had hoped. We still have way too many kids reading below our state's identified proficiency level.
At the same time, I'm not that worried. I know these kiddos are readers. I know they will go to the library this summer. I know they will head straight for the Mo Willems' shelf and that they will read and reread and reread his books. I know they will examine the pictures, searching for Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny on every page. I know they will laugh. I know they will come back to school in August and tell me, on that very first day, what books they have read. They are Mo Willems' groupies.
Creating groupies. Isn't that what reading instruction should be all about?