Saturday, April 9, 2016

Lessons from a Read Aloud

Have you ever had the experience in the classroom that something occurred and it was almost as if you planned it, it was that perfect, but you actually hadn't? Yep, that was my day yesterday. 

See, our current read aloud is When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Man alive, is this amazing. I'd read it before, way back when it came out, but I've never read it to a class. My friend had told me that it was one of her all time favorites to read aloud. So, when looking for a book to read after spring break, I grabbed it. I think it was meant to be read aloud. It is the perfect book. There are short chapters, great description, edge of your seat moments. I'm loving it. In nine days we've read almost the entire book - just 10 pages left to read on Monday. Brilliant. But the key moment came yesterday and I hadn't even planned it.

I was reading along, in the moment with the kids, when I came upon this paragraph below. 
Miranda is at an assembly with her class and she decides to do a kind thing to a fellow classmate. You could say her eyes have been opened, in a way. I read the line, "Sometimes you never feel meaner than the moment you stop being mean." and I almost gasped a bit out loud. See, we'd had some issues with "meanness" this week - intentional and unintentional. I love my class, each and every one of them. They are good kids. Some are still figuring out the path they want to take, trying out different personas on for size. That's pretty normal in fifth grade. Heck, I know adults like that. At any rate, we had some bad choices this week. I had lots of character building conversations which, if I'm being honest, are exhausting and heart wrenching at times. 

And so, at 1:20 yesterday I sat in front of my beautiful kids and read. I hit this line and gasped a bit at the beauty and honesty of it. I looked up and locked eyes with one of the kids I'd spoken to that day. He gave me a slight nod. My eyes watered, I looked back down. Pausing, I said to the class that I thought I should reread that line, that these words were honest and true and I wanted everyone to let them soak in and realize what Miranda is saying. Sometimes you never feel meaner than the moment you stop being mean. We sat there with those words around us like a blanket. 

I think many of my students probably just smiled, wondering when I would read on, which I did in just a few seconds. Probably grinning at my eyes welling up, again, and wondered if I cry at every single book I read. Some students didn't know why that line caught me the way it did. But several did. They knew. They had been in those conversations with me that morning. They knew they had a choice to make. That I believe in them, but they needed to believe in themselves. And then along comes our read aloud and smacks us all in the face with the perfect line. The perfect character who is a good person, but had been unkind without intentionally meaning to. Who made the right choice. Man, I have to thank the universe for that one.

You never know what lesson a read aloud will teach you. I can read the same book to different classes and get different reactions depending on the kids in class and the background we have. I love the connections we build through the books we share. They bring us closer together and give us a common language. And When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead? I cannot recommend it highly enough. My friend was right, it's a brilliant story to share. 
 
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