Sometimes when I get a little bit anxious about how I'm doing as an elementary school librarian, I pick up an old favorite and sneak a peek at my audience as I'm reading. Sometimes I see them sitting with their hands over their ears but eyes wide, sometimes they put their fingers over their eyes with just a teeny bit of separation so that they don't miss out entirely, other times it is just a silent group of children, each looking up at the book with their jaws hung slack. Sometimes I can hardly get through the book...what with the laughter. Sometimes at the end of the book my students applaud. Spontaneously.
This is not a movie they're watching. They are listening to another human being read written words on a page. It amazes me, sometimes, the power of the read-aloud. I love when I read a sentence and a child says, "I love how he said that." Um...that was me saying it that way. But really I'm just the go-between, the middle-woman if you will. I will never forget when I had a high school senior with me for two weeks for her high school Senior Experience. She was from Australia and she read the students Possum Magic. I was one of those students with my jaw hung slack. I can never read that book aloud again...I've been spoiled by her reading of it. For the following read-alouds I rarely stop to ask questions or to check for understanding. There's plenty of time for that. I don't want to break the spell.
Here are three books that I read to my first grade students every year.
Epossumondas Saves the Day :: by Coleen Salley :: Illustrated by Janet Stevens
Sure it looks humorous enough except when you get to the Great, Huge, Ugly, Louisiana Snapping Turtle. Read it to my Firsties every year and I never get tired of it.
My Best Friend :: by Mary Ann Rodman :: Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
There's nothing scary about this book, but my Firsties or Kinders are captivated by it. They are on pins and needles wondering what's going to happen to Lily. Will Tamika finally accept her as she is? Will it take just another bathing suit change or half a popsicle to make them BFFs? Friendships are so important to these little guys and I use this book whenever I can tell there's a little bit of friendship strife going on in the classroom.
Each Kindness :: Jacqueline Woodson :: Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Hmmm...okay, another book illustrated by E. B. Lewis. Not intentional but there is no doubt that illustrations add to the allure of these picture books. I read Each Kindness to each of my three first grade classes last year. The reaction was literally stunned silence. And if you know Firsties you know how monumental this is! Then chatter. "Maybe she came back." "Maybe the author will write a second book." Lots of hoping and wishing when this read-aloud was finished. Sometimes you don't get second chances and I think this book made that a little bit more real for my compassionate Firsties. Afterwards we wrote our acts of kindness on paper pebbles and set them on a paper pond, imagining the ripple effect.
What captivating tales do you read to your first graders every year?