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Monday, August 31, 2009

An Open Letter to Teachers

Dear Teachers,

Just a note to remind you of the awesome power you hold in your hands when you choose to read a book aloud to your students.

When you read a book to your class, you have just endorsed the act of reading more powerfully than those athletes who sweat multi-colored perspiration in Gatorade commercials.

And I bet you didn't know it, but that simple act of sharing a book with kids has far reaching impact.

Allow me to illustrate:

Each year, when I begin teaching writing with my 3-5 grade students, I ask them to call out the names of books that they love (the goal being to fill the entire chalkboard with names of great books). Yes, Captain Underpants and all of it's sequels receive a huge number of shout-outs. But so do books that the teachers read to kids....Island of the Blue Dolphins, Fever, Charlotte's Web, Patti Reed's Doll, The Whipping Boy, Esperanza Rising, Shiloh, The Witch of Blackbird Pond,......

Th
e best part is the appreciative sigh that winds its way through the class at the mention of one of these titles. Ah yes, that was a good book.

S
o teachers, as a personal favor to me, and as a long lasting gift to your students, please read to them. Lots.

No child is ever to old for a good story.

Thank you!

hrh

P.S. What was your favorite book read to you by a teacher? Mine was James and the Giant Peach!

16 comments:

Lisa and Laura said...

What an amazing post! I'm sending this to Laura right this second because she used to teach language arts in middle school and read to her kids constantly. I think my favorite read aloud book of all time was The Westing Game. Oh, I was on the edge of my seat. But Island of the Blue Dolphins was so good too. I remember crying in class with that one. And Hatchet. So many wonderful books! Thank god for teachers.

Casey McCormick said...

Is it awful I don't remember being read to by any teachers? I don't have the greatest memory though, unfortunately.

That said, I hope lots of teachers everywhere are reading to their students!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Casey, you're not alone. I'm trying really hard and can't remember a teacher reading to us. Someone must have! I remember reading to myself when I was able. That is very strange.
I do have a story, though. When I was a teenager, we had to make a book in class (the details of this are lost to me) but I made some sort of cloth book, interactive in some way, and took it babysitting. I had to make up stories for the stuff in it and the kids kept asking for more so I must have been doing something right.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

PS to Shelley: Since you don't have a followers widget, I don't get reminders when you post and have missed so much! I'll bookmark your site so this doesn't happen again.

Lazy Writer said...

I loved Island of the Blue Dolphins. I think after my teacher read it to me, I read it on my own two more times. This is a great post. I have an eleven-year-old who does not like to read, and I am always searching for good books for him. Do you have any suggestions? He's in 6th grade, but I thought you might know of something. (Is this kind of like soliciting free advice from a doctor when you run into one at a party?)

storyqueen said...

L and L: I should have KNOWN that there was a teacher amongst you....too much coolness not to be.
Ah, Hatchet.....

Casey: Sad. I wish I could go back in a time machine and read to you!

Tricia: I bet the kids you babysat (babysitted?) loved you.

and I haven't figured out how to display the follower thing. I know it can't be that hard. I'll tinker with it. Thanks for the heads up!

Shelley

Lisa and Laura said...

Your post speaks directly to me! My first year teaching, I had to teach a reading class to 7th and 8th graders that NO ONE wanted to teach. It was for students who didn't qualify for a foreign language--needless to say, the majority of them HATED to read. Anyways, there was no curriculum for the class, just a storage closet full of class sets of books. I didn't know what else to do, so we basically read. I read aloud and they followed, jumping in and reading aloud if they wanted to. We did other things too, but the majority of my lessons centered around read alouds. Anyways, at the end of the year, I had a parent approach me. She said, "I have no idea what you did with Danny, but HE CAN READ!" I wanted to tell her, "I didn't do anyhing, I just read aloud all year," but I'm telling you, it helped him learn to read.

My favorite all time book to read aloud is Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. I love doing the different voices. I told Lisa, if we ever have the honor of having an audio version of our book, I totally want to read it! I LOVE READING ALOUD!

Stephanie Faris said...

It's amazing how much of a difference one teacher can make in the life of a child. Not all children come from good homes...and for some children, teachers are their only hope.

Wend's Place said...

I am so looking forward to teaching in the coming year. I love reading out loud and I hope to use this tool that I have to help the children enjoy their reading too.

I never enjoyed reading a book at school but reading out loud is different, you are right there is something special about it!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi again Shelley--Easy peasy to add the followers. Go to your layout page and then to the add gadget/widget. In the list of things you can pick is followers.

storyqueen said...

Lazy-There is a serious of books called Shipwreck: The Island (by Gordon Korman) that the boys in my school loved. Life or death decisions, adventure and all that. Artemis Fowl is also popular....and Eoin Colfer also has a series about a kid James Bond....Airman or something like that. (Personally, I find Colfer VERY readable and can't wait to read Airman....the cover doesn't look too juvenile if that makes a difference.

L and L: Those kids were so lucky to have you! And you know they never would have read Roll of Thunder without you. (They did an audio of a few of my books, but I didn't get to read it.....sigh.)

Steph: So TRUE! It is not the money that keeps me in teaching (it's pitiful) but it's the feeling that I can make a difference in the lives of kids. Priceless.

Wend: What do you teach? School here starts tomorrow!

Tricia: Okay, I did it. Thanks for the help....but if it stays empty and lonely, I am going to take it away!

Kelly H-Y said...

Wonderful!!! I think I'll share this with my children's teachers!!!

Kim said...

Hip, Hip, Hooray! I so hope that many teachers out there read this post. I think I'll forward it to my children's teachers this year. As a teacher, I read aloud to my 5th and 6th graders EVERY day. They LOVED it and got so much out of it.

I think the best read aloud turned out to be The Devil's Arithmetic because the kids learned so much and dug down deep to make sense of the Holocaust through this book.

Corey Schwartz said...

I remember my third grade teacher reading us all the Pippi Longstocking books. And my sixth grade teacher reading us The Great Brain series. I loved both!

storyqueen said...

Kelly-Aw, shucks...I would be honored if you shared it with your kids' teachers.

Kim-Ooohhh, The Devil's Arithmetic is a good one! Yeah great teachers!

Corey-My4th grade teacher read the Pippi's, and also the Mrs. Piggle-wiggles. Loved those books!

Amy Tate said...

Mis Shelley, you make me want to sit in your class. Thank you for such a beautiful post, - so true!