The Library – Reading and Book Bears – Part 1

Thursdays at the library are my favorite days.  I get to read aloud to elementary school children.  And, I get to host Book Bears, a book discussion on a book everyone in the group has read.  How could I resist kneeling down and having my picture taken in the window of the children’s room at the library this week?

There is more to my Thursdays at the library than just reading.  What happens is like magic.  This happened a few years ago:

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.


Stay tuned for a second Book Bears story, Part 2

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 Book Review, books, children's books, Inspiration, reading, reading aloud and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to The Library – Reading and Book Bears – Part 1

  1. beth says:

    the magic of words and those who read them and make them come alive for others!

  2. “I was full of stars”. Nice way of feeling inside. I will mark my times with that Jennie expression. Thank you??This made me smile. Have a happy day.

    Sandra Pilmoor ________________________________

  3. Thats wonderful! The best ever can happen to children, are books and you. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your great way of teaching, Jennie! Enjoy a beautiful weekend! xx Michael

  4. beetleypete says:

    I felt as if I was one of the Book Bears, listening to you read, and being entranced by the story.

    You have the power to convey that joy to a grumpy old man thousands of miles away.

    That’s your gift, given to us by a lady whose heart is at least as big as a number four washtub, if not much larger.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      My goodness, Pete. You have made an old woman light up like a Christmas tree. I think my heart is at least as big as a number four washtub, probably more.

      If I can convey joy, even to a (not) grumpy old man, that is a gift. Pete, you have given me a great Christmas gift… telling me what my gift is. Thank you, my friend.

  5. I so agree with Pete. I can feel your energy flowing all over those precious children like the stars in the milky way. You could write a book yourself with all that feeling. I’m not surprised at all that you have enthralled all those children to want to be read to and to read.

    • Jennie says:

      Marlene, I have read Pete’s comment many times. I was deeply touched. I even sent them to our Groton children’s librarian, so she would know Book Bears are all over the world. And now, you add to add to that. Thank you! Honestly, this is my energy, my passion, reading aloud and opening the world for children. Thank you, Marlene!

  6. Dan Antion says:

    Words are magical, Jennie. I’m glad you agreed to feed them the words they want to hear.

  7. quiall says:

    You take me back to the times when I sat at my mothers knee and listened to her read to me. The magic that instilled in me is still there. It was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.

  8. You know me well enough to know I had to look that book up–Summer of the Monkeys? How’d I miss it! Don’t tell me how it ends–I want to read it myself, in all of its literary glory.

    Hugs to you for introducing that book.

    • Jennie says:

      It is a classic, and one of the best. I was glad that the children were enthralled with the book. I won’t tell you the ending… there is so much more to this wonderful book. Happy reading, Jacqui.

  9. I’m going to get this book to read to my grandkids when they stay over. Thanks Jennie 😘

    • Jennie says:

      This is a winner, FR. It’s detailed and captivating. Are your grandkids at least 8 years old? They’ll learn about country life back in the day. My goodness, when the kid decides to find the monkeys…

  10. Oh, this was wonderful! It let me with a big grin on my face and a warm glow in my heart.

  11. Don Ostertag says:

    What an exciting trip these little ones went on, not only literature but also math. And I, like you, Jennie, love to read to children, Sadly they have now outgrown their grandpa reading to them.

  12. sjhigbee says:

    Thank you for conveying the full magic of what it’s like reading aloud to an enthusiastic group of children. I remember that feeling with huge fondness:)).

  13. This book too sounds wonderful and perhaps #1 Grandson would love to hear it? We’re not going to make our goal of finishing The Wild Robot this year. I need to do what you did and together figure how much longer it’s going to take us. Have a lovely week-end, Jennie!

    • Jennie says:

      This book is more difficult. I’d hold off until you finish The Wild Robot. Yes, figure out how long it will take and then plunge in. Thanks, Deborah. Happy weekend to you.

  14. Oh my, Jennie, how marvelous. I can remember sitting and reading to Greg for three hours straight. The receptionist at my gynocologist always remarks on how she remembers me sitting and reading to Greg when I was pregnant with Michael. He was only 2 1/2 to 3 at the time. Reading is wonderful.

  15. Darlene says:

    Never underestimate the power of reading. It can change lives. I love that the young boy was able to find the book in the school library and finish it.

  16. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, thank you so much for another excellent post!

  17. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Please enjoy another great post from the excellent teacher, Jennie!

  18. Loved that Jennie. Lovely to feel your enthusiasm – the kids are lucky to be on the end of it. Good to put a face to a name too. “It was the inside of my grandpa that really counted.” Of course it was; wonderful!

  19. petespringerauthor says:

    Two of my favorite books are Summer of the Monkeys and Where the Red Fern Grows. I love reading new books, but it’s always fun to go back to some classics.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, I love the classics as much as the new ones, sometimes more. When I read this book, I hadn’t realized the author was the same one who wrote Where the Red Fern Grows. Best to you, Pete.

  20. What a great excerpt, Jennie. The perfect words to capture the grandfather. Have fun with the Book Bears – they certainly have fun with you. 🙂

  21. Elizabeth says:

    I love the calculations of how long it would take to finish the book. I am reminded of a Sunday School class where we undertook the reading of Matthew. We took 18 months to get through it since we paused every few verses to have wonderful discussions. Not of Biblical scholarship, but of personal connections to the text. I can just see your little Book Bears enjoying the same slow pace.

  22. Jim Borden says:

    wow – what a recommendation for a book! and I love all the math you integrated into the reading lesson…

  23. appamprawns says:

    Oh what joy to be part of a young person’s book club!

  24. Léa says:

    I can feel the magic all the way over here in the Mediterranean. However, you are the magician.

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