Book Bears started yesterday. It’s my library reading group, mostly second graders. Yesterday we met each other and shared our favorite summer read. ‘Meet and Greet’, with books. Some children were nervous. Some were outgoing. I could see a wide disparity with their books, from Harry Potter, to Frog and Toad, to an American Girl Doll book. A typical gathering of children. Thirty minutes later, we were bonded at the hip, BFFs. This is what happened:
I greeted every child, making sure I said something important to each one; Haley and I had the same earrings, Jonah went to sleep-over camp this summer, and so on. Then I passed out the snack, walking around the table to every child. My conversation went something like this:
“I love books. This is so cool to share our favorite books. But I have to tell you something. When I was your age” .. pause
“You didn’t read books?”
“You’re right. I was a terrible reader. Are you ready for this? Guess how many times I went to a library when I was your age?”
No guesses. Stunned faces. Interested faces.
“One! That’s awful. And now I love books.”
I immediately made a connection with the children. They knew I was real. They knew I understood. And they knew I loved books. As they ate their snack I said, “You eat snack and I’ll go first. I’ll tell you about my favorite book this summer, Summer of the Monkeys. It might be hard for you to read, but your parents could read it aloud to you.”
I showed them the cover, told them about living in the country a long time ago, how the monkeys had escaped… on and on. I was ready to give each child a turn to tell us about their book. Haley said, “Can you read us some of the book?” All eyes were glued and nodding with Haley.
So, I played ‘The Stop Game’. I fanned the pages until the children said, “STOP!” Then I read that page. We played ‘The Stop Game’ twice. You could have heard a pin drop. Oh, how they loved hearing me read aloud those words. Finally a child asked, “Could you read us this book every time we come?”
Children crave hearing stories and books read aloud. Even the best of my Book Bear readers – Nora, my Harry Potter reader – begged to hear more.
Hearing the words is carved into our DNA. Oral history and storytelling goes back to the beginning of mankind. It is natural, beloved. Words are magical. Once a child is a proficient reader, s/he becomes the captain of the ship of words. Then, all those words and their magic is the foundation for learning.
Every Book Bear shared their favorite summer read. They read aloud a favorite part of their book. Reading in front of a group of strangers when you are in second grade is uncomfortable if not terrifying. I was so proud of my Book Bears!
Our first book for October will be The Year of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes. It’s a Newberry Honor book. I know the book (terrific is an understatement) and I can’t wait for my Book Bears to get together and discuss this book. Life is good!