Look What Happened!

Independent reading.  SSR.  Call it what you like.  It is crossing over from learning to read words, to learning to read.  Parents and teachers alike take a deep breath and clasp their hands together when this happens.  There are no words to say.  Words might spoil the moment.  After all, major milestones don’t happen often.

Look what happened!

I was busy in the classroom, working with children on a 100-piece puzzle. Things were bustling yet quiet.  I looked over at the big rug and saw children dragging chairs.  Little did I know that they wanted to arrange chairs in order to read books.  After they set up chairs on the rug, they went for the books.  Then they sat down, together, to read independently.

These are young children who cannot read, yet that is exactly what they are doing.  Babies hear words; that’s how they learn to talk.  Children hear books; that’s how they learn to read.

Preschoolers were clustered together in SSR (silent sustained reading). Four-year-olds, choosing to read independently, yet together as a group, without any help from a teacher.

It is the end of the school year; that means children are very comfortable with books in my classroom, and with each other.  Staging their own SSR seems natural.  It certainly did to the children.  I think I can shed some light as to why…

I read-aloud constantly in my preschool classroom.  Books are front-facing on a prominent bookshelf, accessible any time.  I put words into the minds of children.  Those words accumulate.  Knowing more words=academic success in all areas.  While this is an incredibly important fact, I know that I am putting more than words into the mind and heart of children.  Nothing can compare to reading about Jack the dog in Little House on the Prairie; the sadness of losing Jack crossing the creek, and the joy of finding him again. Charlotte the spider entrusted her egg sac and 514 babies to Wilbur the pig in Charlotte’s Web before she died.  We cry together, and we laugh and cheer together.  Word, after word, after word.

When children band together in chapter reading, in poetry, and in picture books, their collective learning is a natural ladder to the next step, doing it.  And they did.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in chapter reading, Early Education, Imagination, picture books, reading, reading aloud, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

57 Responses to Look What Happened!

  1. Micki Peluso says:

    What a pleasure to have the job you have, doing what you love and making children happy and learning to love books. You are a true blessing.

  2. This brought tears to my eyes. So wonderful, Jennie.

  3. A sigh of pleasure from this way comes!

  4. beetleypete says:

    Always a delight to read your classroom stories, Jennie. And inspirational too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  5. Darlene says:

    To instil the love of reading at a young age must be such a rewarding experience. Well done. They will be forever grateful.

  6. Norah says:

    Ah, Jennie. This is gorgeous. I love it when children are the masters of their own learning. You never know what may happen when you provide them with a rich learning environment.

  7. Kelleyn says:

    My 5 year old just learned how to read after struggling with it for a good part of the school year and it is amazing watching the world of reading opening up to her..

  8. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    This is a wonderful post on the importance of reading for children and on excellence in teaching!

  9. How did I miss this? Saw it on Dr. French’s post first. Do you not feel every bit the proud mama to have your kiddos take charge and do such a wonderful thing? I certainly would. That must give you such a charge to know that what you are doing is working well. I’m so delighted for you and the children.

    • Jennie says:

      I only posted this a few days ago, so I don’t think you really missed it. Dr. French was just quick to reblog. He is so kind. Yes, I do feel like a proud mama when the children suddenly do it on their own!

  10. Looks like another successful year wrapping up. 🙂

  11. Aw, this is wonderful. You’ve given yet another crop of students such a gift—confidence in themselves and in their knowledge that they will someday be great readers. Must be hard to say good-bye to them each year, but exciting to greet new faces in the fall.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes it is, Marcia. It’s moments like this that I forget all the hard times and see the big picture, what teaching is all about. So hard to say goodbye each year, yet exciting every September.

  12. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

  13. It’s an ongoing challenge, but as teachers, we must remind children that books cultivate the mind.

  14. Reblogged this on K. D. Dowdall and commented:
    This is a wonderful post and I was so surprised at these 4 year old students gathering together to read, even though they can’t truly read yet. However, the environment in their teacher’s school room has fostered a love of books and the need to want to learn to read. Remarkable!

  15. D. Metzke says:

    How exciting and rewarding!

  16. Julie Cao says:

    This is wonderful. Collective learning is amazing way to acquire new knowledge and these children are very smart on reading. The books will fill their soul.

  17. reocochran says:

    This picture tells your teaching reading through chapter books is exactly the way it should be carried out, Jennie.
    I used to tell parents to have a canvas bag of easy reading books, Dr Seuss “Hop on Pop,” “Curious George,” “Each Peach Pear Plum” and “Is Your Mama a Llama?” (Or whichever ones their family loved. ❤) No radio; but books and then ask the preschoolers, “Can you tell me the story please?” 🙂

  18. reocochran says:

    Oh and keep the canvas bag in the car. 🙂

  19. Reblogged this on The Writers Desk and commented:
    A wonderful look into the minds of preschoolers and an excellent teacher.

  20. Books the window to the world. Thank you for sharing such a great post.

  21. JoAnna says:

    Beautiful! I have a goal to volunteer to help children read and write. This nudges me on that.

    • Jennie says:

      That’s wonderful, JoAnna. You will feel inspired when you read aloud, and the children will get plenty of language and imagination. Win-win. The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease is a classic for parents and teachers (you). Best to you, JoAnna.

  22. I know how you felt, Jennie. Back in the late 60’s until the mid 70’s I taught first grade which at that time was when reading was taught. I remember how thrilled the children were when they started to read on their own. That was one of the reasons I enjoyed teaching at that level. When my children came along, I read to them a lot. I had a word book and I would point to the illustrated words. When my son started Kindergarten the teacher said, “Did you know Jay can read?” I answered, “Yes”. Both my grown children are avid readers, especially my son. They prefer reading to TV. 🙂 — Suzanne

    • Jennie says:

      What a wonderful story, Patricia. I wish all parents read to their children. It makes all the difference in the world. While my class is only 4 year olds, the love of looking and listening to books is a huge first step to reading readiness. Thanks for reading. Best to you!

  23. ren says:

    We moved to a new school, he was now in first grade. The teacher told the children to read a book. My son did not know how to read and felt ‘stupid’. That is when he learned, he hated reading! He despised reading for all his school years, cuz he was ‘stupid’! He loved to be read to during our story time at night. As an older teenager, he ‘re-discovered’ the world of reading and loves reading to this day. 🙂
    Thank you again, for your wonderful sharings.

    • Jennie says:

      You are welcome, Ren! I also hated reading when I was a child and felt stupid. I came a long way, too. A teacher can make a big difference. Best to you!

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