The classroom was dark except for a few strings of twinkling lights. It was time for chapter reading before rest time. We started a new chapter reading book, Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Day one is always thrilling, and I show children the cover before reading.
We read the first chapter with great interest and discussion. Then, we began to read chapter two. As soon as I read the title, The Voice in the Air, Allie said, “Is that God? He’s in the air, you know.”
I stopped. Everybody stopped. I smiled the biggest smile in the whole wide world at Allie. Words can fill a vessel. Allie’s words filled mine.
I said, “Let’s read and find out.”
Spontaneously, Noah said, “Jennie, I love you.” When children say that on their own, they have felt a great moment of being covered in a warm blanket. I knew Noah felt so good that he had to tell me. I also knew that his feelings started with chapter reading. He was really saying “Thank you for reading to me. I love this story. I feel good when I’m on my nap mat and you read aloud. I like what Allie said.” I think there was probably more in his heart. Children don’t have the words that adults do. Noah’s words spoke volumes.
As I read the chapter aloud, the words said Mr. Popper put on his spectacles. Spectacles. Every new and different word opens a whole conversation. That is the power and beauty of reading aloud, where there are no pictures. Every word becomes crystal clear and drives the mind, and also the heart.
Penguins. That drove a big conversation, especially when we learned about pushing off the cliff and sea leopards. Reality and survival are not easy topics to teach children. Thank goodness there have been a host of writers who have put into words life and goodness and struggle. Thank goodness for books and chapter reading. It’s my yellow brick road for children.
I knew as soon as we talked about Antarctica that children needed and wanted to see the South Pole in the context of the world. I promised I would show them the picture from our Big Book Atlas.
I always show children any pictures in the book after we finish reading. As I did so, Noah belted out, “Jennie, you forgot ‘In the great green room’! He was right. And he was talking about Goodnight Moon. I recite that book every day before chapter reading. I was so excited about starting a new book and showing the cover that I’d forgotten to recite Goodnight Moon.
Noah had not forgotten.
After rest time I pulled out our favorite big map book so we could see Antarctica. Oh, how we loved exploring. This is what happens when children ask questions and wonder.