A Recent Encounter
One of the four kids at my table would not stay still in his seat. Engaged in a precise reading curriculum that left no wiggle room, we had to follow the program for an hour before the kids could read by themselves. I asked the boy to sit at the end of the table so that he wouldn’t bother anyone. Even in that spot his body wanted to move. And when he made even the slightest mistake in his reading, he got more fidgety and more contrary.
The other students, quiet and obedient, didn’t squirm so much but their lackluster spirits spoke volumes. One of them did pipe up enough to say that he could read fine and what we did was boring. He wasn’t tripping over his words but having to wait patiently while the strugglers read their passages again and again. Finally, when one student excused himself to go to the restroom, we all took a breather.
When it was time for independent reading, I tried to enforce the section of the library where the students were supposed to get their books. But they wanted to pick up books from anywhere. Then two of them brought me some picture books and asked if I would read to them. I agreed, if they would spend the other half of the time reading independently. We sat on the rug and I opened the first book, The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler.
The cantankerous squirmer didn’t squirm. In fact, no one moved or made a peep. Entranced by the story and drawings—a book at least one of them had read before—the joy seemed also to be in the sharing of the experience. They knew it was good and wanted me to see how good it was. The other books we had been reading? They were good too, but I’ll bet none of us can tell you anything about them anymore. I have no idea even of the titles. We hadn’t been reading them for fun. Will the kids remember The Gruffalo? No question in my mind. Did they then want to go back and read it to themselves? Yes.