I have two stories to tell; both happened on the same day this week, yet they are fourteen years apart. Every year my last chapter reading book at school is Little House on the Prairie. Here is what happened:
Story One: My school’s annual presentation of a college scholarship to a former student happened this week. Martha, the recipient, was a preschooler in my class, way back when. As her winning essay was read aloud, these were her some of her words:
“I have been fortunate to grow up in an environment where a love of learning was instilled in me from a young age. Between my mom and Jennie, adults read out loud to me multiple times a day. They also encouraged me to ask questions and to be a curious learner, which led directly to my success in high school.”
Martha and Jennie…now
Martha was the quiet one, the child who “took it all in”. Questions? Bursting with things to say? Not really. But, oh how she listened! I never underestimate the brain of a child. What goes in builds and grows, like all those words from chapter reading.
I thanked and congratulated Martha. And then her Mother said, “Jennie, don’t you remember? You didn’t finish reading Little House on the Prairie, and you told me I needed to finish reading the book to Martha. I did. That started reading aloud and chapter books.”
Martha is headed to an outstanding college, Trinity College in Connecticut, among the best. She has been a volunteer at school, and in her college essay she said:
“I have always adored children and believe that I am able to connect with them, so for the past few years I have volunteered at the preschool I once attended. As I read to the students during rest time, I love seeing how excited they become to see what happens next. I know how important it is to read to young children, but now I know its value firsthand.”
Martha and Jennie…then
Story Two: Aaryan is not a Martha. He constantly asks questions and has something important to say at chapter reading. He verbalizes all he remembers with great excitement. We were reading the chapter of Pa going to town, close to three-quarters of the way through Little House on the Prairie. Pa’s neighbor, Mr. Edwards, came over to help Ma with the chores while Pa was away. Immediately Aaryan said, “Is he the ‘wildcat from Tennessee’?” My goodness! That phrase to describe Mr. Edwards was ages ago in the book and only mentioned one time. I threw back my head and belly-laughed. “Yes, Aaryan. Mr. Edwards is the ‘wildcat from Tennessee’.” Remarkable.
I told the children we would not be able to finish reading the whole book. What! That did not go over well. I took a positive spin, reading ahead all the upcoming chapters, like Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Clause.
“You can get the book from the library. Your Mom and Dad can read the rest of the book to you.”
That did not go over well, either. Especially with Aaryan. We talked together. My words could not soothe him. He has experienced what all readers feel when reading a good book. I think for those children who hear the words, the feelings are even more powerful. It happens in my class, all the time.
Perhaps fourteen years from now Aaryan’s Mother will say the same words to me that Martha’s Mother said; “Jennie, don’t you remember…?” Perhaps she’ll tell me the same story Martha’s Mother told me. Perhaps ending the school year with an open book is a good thing. An open book is an open door.