Okay, so I didn’t read to sheep… but I had brown hair and loved to read, so clearly we were the same person. Or maybe I just wished that. I mean, a girl like me had dreams…
Anyway. Reading was always a thing I loved! But now that I’m teaching, I see kids who don’t feel the same way, and it kills me.
Last year, my students had reading response notebooks. They were such a wonderful way to connect kids to books- and for me to connect with my kids, too. Our notes back and forth in the notebooks helped them become this sacred, trusting space where kids could tell me anything.
One student wrote that she didn’t like books where everyone had such perfect lives. They had their moms and their dads and their house and a pet, and never had to worry about having enough for dinner or someone overdosing on drugs.
This girl had been through a LOT- and my heart ached to read her note, but I knew she was just not a kid that could connect to a silly Junie B. Jones book.
I suggested Love, Aubrey. It was a little hard for her reading level, and included some deep family struggles- content that I might not suggest to every third grader, but for this girl, it was the right book.
She read it and immediately connected to the main character- and yet, the book holds onto suspense and doesn’t tell you exactly what has happened in this girl’s past.
She was hooked. And not hooked because all her friends were reading it, or because it was funny and silly, or even because her teacher suggested it- but because she had finally found a character with whom she could empathize. In a school where most of the other students had no experience like hers, this girl found solace in the fact that she wasn’t alone- all from the perfect book.
THIS is what I love about reading, and especially about teaching it.
Reading can change kids, and make their differences okay. I wrote a quick mini-unit for a new book called Exclamation Mark.
Plus, these personalized exclamation marks and writing make a great craftivity to display at parent-teacher conferences! They are a great way to show "you"! If you'll excuse the lack of artistic skill, here's mine:
We actually used the exclamation marks on our first day with our groups- from grades 2-6!