I read-aloud at the library; great literature and a captive audience of children. Isabelle is part of my book group that includes first and second graders. As the year has progressed she has grown from shy and quiet to relaxed and chatty. Isabelle has never missed my reading aloud. I have a theory about that, but I’m jumping ahead. This is Isabelle’s story:
Our current read-aloud book is The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. This week we read about travelling to the sick monkeys in Africa. When I read the sentence, “They always had plenty to eat and drink, because Chee-Chee and Polynesia knew all the different kinds of fruits and vegetables that grow in the jungle, and where to find them…” Isabelle said, “I ate wonderful fruit in Bali.”
I knew Isabelle had lived in Bali. But, this was different. The way she said it, talking about the fruit, was a child remembering something important. I knew there was more, much more. So, I interviewed Isabelle. Pen and paper in hand (Isabelle thought that was very cool), I simply asked, “Tell me about Bali.” These are her exact words:
“I went to my first preschool there. There were three sets of twins, Milo and Pablo, Rocco and his brother, and I can’t remember the other names.
Snake fruit is curvy and thin and sweet. It has a red end that looks like a snake tongue. Star fruit is yellow and shaped like a star. You have to peel the skin off. It tastes so, so good! There’s an orange type with a cold, cold, cold taste which makes it taste like ice cream.
Annaque was my first best friend there. Our house had an upstairs with lizards that would fall from the ceiling. The ants would carry the dead lizards away. The alive lizards would eat the ants. Downstairs had a lot of bugs. Both the lizards and the bugs stole our food.”
At this point I cannot write fast enough, and I am the one making comments. The tables are turned; Isabelle is the storyteller and I am her captive audience. And yes, all of her story is true, like the monkeys and the forest… well, you have to keep reading.
“Very rarely we got a monkey in our house. We gave it fruit- it wanted fruit. It loved bananas! Sometimes it played in the bathtub and messed up the bed. There was a pool outside. Everyone has a pool. Monkeys drink pool water.
A Monkey Forest was there. It had monkey statues, real monkeys, and apes. There were a few snub-nosed monkeys, a few red-faced monkeys, and a lot of chimpanzees. They didn’t name it “Ape and Monkey Forest” because they thought apes were monkeys.
Annaque’s house was in the monkey forest. She had a full house, an upstairs and a downstairs. She brought monkeys to me for me to pet.”
Really? Yes, really. I am listening to every word, and my imagination is in a monkey forest, and a big downstairs with lizards and ants, alive and dead.
“There are a lot of Blessings in Bali. A lot. They took rocks and put them with flowers to make Blessings. Giving thanks.”
A crystal clear memory and detailed descriptions, with language and vocabulary that are remarkably impressive for a child. Isabelle is a lover of books and reading. My theory? Reading-aloud has made the difference. It is far more than pleasure and imagination; it is the single most guarantor of academic success in school. Isabelle is well on her way. I am so glad she told me her story!