Book Bears, and Reading Aloud

My library reading group is Book Bears.  We read a book each month, and I host the discussion.  These are mostly second graders, eager to read.  We have a full and lively house, until…  Let me back up.  Many things have happened.

When Book Bears first met in September, everyone brought their favorite book that they read over the summer.  I did, too.  I brought Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls.  He was also the author of Where the Red Fern Grows.

Every summer I get lost in books, just like the Book Bears.  Sometimes there is one that sticks with me for a long time.  A very long time.  This one did.  His writing is fluid.  His words are a quiver of arrows, shot to the heart.

Book Bears now know that.  I read a random page from the book.  That’s all it took.  They were hooked.   They asked me to read this book aloud to them, at the end of our Book Bear sessions.  No problem.  Happy to do that.  Reading aloud really is the Holy Grail.

The next meeting I read aloud for the last 5 or 10 minutes.  That turned out to be a teaser.  They wanted more.  The following session, the children couldn’t stand it any longer.  I read for 15 minutes.  And then I knew that the Book Bears wanted read-aloud as much as they wanted to read.

I asked Ashvik after our Book Bears session, “Did you like the book?”  It was a terrific book by Kate DiCamillo.

He said, “Not really.  Well, it was okay.  I like what you read.  Remember when you read Indian in the Cupboard?  I didn’t get to hear the end of that book.  My school has that book.  I got to read it!”

My goodness.

We added a full thirty minutes to the end of Book Bears.  That meant we went from discussing our current book for thirty minutes, to hearing Jennie read aloud Summer of the Monkeys for thirty minutes.  These kids stayed.  Every parent loved it.

Still, it wasn’t enough.

Last week we got to page 36.  You have no idea all that we read aloud, and the wonderful stops to talk about what happened.  Might as well have been 360 pages.  Jay Berry and Grandpa have come up with a plan to catch the monkeys.  There are thirty monkeys and one chimpanzee.  The reward for each monkey is $2.00.  The reward for the chimpanzee is $100.00.

That sparked questions, and math calculations.  Two dollars didn’t seem like much to the Book Bears, but one hundred dollars did.  We stopped to talk about when the book was written (they were amazed that it was written the same year I was married), yet we knew the story was long before that.  Late 1800’s.  I took a wild stab and guessed that the money had multiplied ten times.

We had a great math session, recalculating and adding each $2.00, plus the $100.00.  No calculators, no pencils.  It was the best.  But, my guess was wrong; the money had far more than grown ten times.  I can’t wait to tell Book Bears that our calculation of $1,060.00 in todays dollars is well short.

Since we were only on page 36, we stopped to calculate how many pages we would need to read in order to finish the book by June.  Not looking good.  The children asked me to use my iPhone calculator to figure this out.  We huddled together.  Seriously.  They were a little worried.  I said, “To make the math easy, let’s say we’re on page 40.  The book has 290 pages.  Subtract the 40 we have read, and we have 250 pages left to read in five more meetings.”  Not good, because we stop all the time to talk.  That’s what happens with a good book.

We’re adding another session in order to read aloud this book.  I left the library feeling like all the words we had spoken were now stars shooting out of my body.  I was full of stars.  Never underestimate the power of reading aloud, no matter the age.

Have you ever read one line, one statement in a book, that knocked you off your feet?  This one from Summer of the Monkeys did just that:

“It was the inside of my grandpa that really counted.  He had a heart as big as a number four washtub; and inside that wrinkled old hide of his was enough boy-understanding for all the boys in the world.”

Words are magic, aren’t they?  They take us to places, make us understand, make us laugh and cry.  When words are well crafted, they leave a ‘forever’ mark.  E.B. White’s words do that.  Kate DiCamillo’s words do that.  So do Wilson Rawls’ words.

If you love boys and dogs, grandpas, incredible adventures, and one of the best stories written, Book Bears recommends Summer of the Monkeys.  I do, too.


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.
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73 Responses to Book Bears, and Reading Aloud

  1. Theleens says:

    You put so much effort into writing this wonderful article thank you so much. I will definitely need to have a look at this wonderful book 🙂

  2. College Mate says:

    Haven’t been a part of a book club in ages!

  3. My daughter loves that book. 🙂 While my kids read all the time, we still do read-alouds with them.

  4. Reading aloud is fabulous. Michael has an auditory processing problem, so he reads slowly although he is accurate. We read together. He reads one page, I read three or four. That way we get through the book fast enough to keep the magic alive.

  5. Peter Klopp says:

    I like the way you were able to sneak in the math without the children realizing it. Very Impressive reading club worth emulating!

  6. What a beautiful experience for you and the kids.

  7. Darlene says:

    This book sounds amazing and one I wasn’t familiar with. Sounds like the kids are hooked. You do such a great job of keeping their interest, which is quite an accomplishment these days.

    • Jennie says:

      Thanks, Darlene. I think it’s as good as his “Where the Red Fern Grows”. I meant to say in the post that after 20 minutes of Book Bears they asked, “Can you read the monkey book now?” Wow!

  8. beetleypete says:

    That’s a great quote from the book, Jennie. No wonder the kids enjoyed it so much.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  9. Dan Antion says:

    The book sounds wonderful, but the time, energy and emotion that you put into this group is really amazing, Jennie. I think just knowing that an adult cares enough to do that is a great experience for these kids.

  10. Well done, Jennie. Huge hugs.

  11. Oh, Jennie, I loved this post for so many reasons. The quote is amazing. Your kids enthusiasm is priceless! Your post is a great testament to the value of reading aloud, and especially to the value of taking the time to pause and discuss what you’ve just read. The Book Bears are so very fortunate to have you in their world, and I can tell that you feel the same about them! – Susan
    P.S. I don’t know Summer of the Monkeys. I’ve added it to my list

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Susan! Enthusiasm is contagious. I stop often when I read aloud to have discussions. Today at the library I stopped to look at Roman numerals in “My Father’s Dragon” with children. They had no idea how to read them. Learning can be fun! If you liked “Where the Red Fern Grows”, this one will be a favorite.

  12. John Fioravanti says:

    As a retired high school teacher, I am uplifted to Read about your experiences reading aloud to your Book Bears. They are so fortunate to have you, Jennie!

  13. Tammy says:

    That was also a magical read aloud in my third grade classroom years back. Terrific book! Reading your posts brings tears to my eyes sometimes-celebrating the goodness you are doing and missing it much.

  14. Norah says:

    Jennie, I love hearing about your reading sessions and these Book Bear sessions are fabulous. This sounds like a wonderful book, and I love the quote from it you chose to share. Books are indeed magic, and read aloud sessions are magic in the way they turn children onto books, reading and words. I love the way you incorporated maths into this session. There is much more to a reading session than simply reading the words on the page. Discussion and relationships are what it’s all about, and opening up little minds to think and share ideas. Somehow, I think you’d perform magic with any book you read to your little Book Bears.

  15. Tina Frisco says:

    Jennie, I got all goose-bumpy reading this. Such a wonderful experience for child and adult alike. To make a difference in a child’s life is priceless ❤

  16. Ritu says:

    It’s so wonderful to capture a child’s imagination with a book… so much that they want to hear it all!!

  17. This sounds wonderful, Jennie. I love that passage and I can understand why the children couldn’t get enough. I’m adding it to my reading list for Tornado Boy. He’ll be ready soon. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Thanks, Diana. That passage swept me off my feet. You will love the book. How old is Tornado Boy? Apologies that I don’t remember. A perfect read aloud for 3rd graders. The 2nd graders in my Book Bears group are more like 3rd graders.

  18. I’ve never been a great out loud reader but have done the best with it when necessary. It has helped my children and a stepdaughter with their reading so I know how important it is. It will pull them into a story like self reading my not immediately. Very much enjoyed reading this post.

  19. I love your posts about the Book Bears, Jennie. They’re so engaging and vivid. This one is no exception. Happy Weekend hugs.

  20. I loved that quote, just want to hug that wrinkled old grandpa.. 😀 and I love the name Book Bears.
    And I can see why your class so worried the story would not get finished..
    I remember well when I was in primary school our teacher read us each day for fifteen minutes prior to our going home time the Book The Borrowers.. So fired up was my imagination of Little people and the bits and pieces they used that would be borrowed that they would use in their home beneath the floorboards.. Something I never forgot.. And when the film and TV came to bring it to life, I relived it all over again 😀

    What you create here, I know your little Book Bears will remember well into their adulthood xxx

  21. dgkaye says:

    Well you’ve certainly got me curious about this book Jennie. What a wonderful book club and the interaction is marvelous. Based on the chat evoked in this gathering you may have to add yet another session. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Debby, do you know “Where the Red Fern Grows”? This book is the author’s other winner. I read it last summer, shared a page or two with Book Bears, and the rest is still an unfolding, sit on the edge of your seat read aloud. Yes, I may have to add another session to get through 250 pages. Life is good!

  22. reocochran says:

    Lovely book with great language and vocabulary included, Jennie. I liked Where the Red Fern Grows, but monkeys are always very entertaining. Pippi Longstocking had her menagerie, a monkey, horse and two close friends. It was quite a fantasy which I enjoyed immensely. The funny sequence of a beauty shop which has lotion to remove freckles and how Pippi is so confident and says she would like a jar which would increase her freckles rather than have them disappear made me laugh, but also helped me realize no one should want to change the way they look. I’m not sure if boys would laugh, but when she puts boys in trees, they may take notice. 😀

  23. I remember you mentioning Summer of the Monkeys before and I can’t believe I STILL haven’t read it. This time it’s going on my list. Great post!

  24. Reading aloud really is the Holy Grail. I love this line and it is so true. How wonderful to “hook” kids on books in this way.

  25. What an amazing way to encourage children to establish their love of reading at a fairly young age!! And great choices in book!

  26. Charlie Snuff says:

    It’s crazy to see that a few words from a book can hook someone into reading it especially the younger generation. Keep that book club going😊

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