|The group gathers daily for stories and song.|
We devote a lot of time to reading aloud. Research has proven that reading aloud to your child at home is the key factor in developing a literate human being. (Parents are the first and best teachers in this regard. One of the best books about reading at home is Dorothy Butler's, Babies Need Books. I love to give a copy of this book to a new parent; out of print, it is widely available second hand. Not only does it discuss books for babies, but introduces the parent to the joys of shared reading all the way through age six.) Our interests range way beyond research-proven literacy benefits. What we do in the classroom when we engage in reading aloud is make space in our circle and our day for a whole host of characters and events to join and belong to us.
When I was very young, probably two, my father read a great book very hard to come by even then because he found it in a barn in New England and its publication date was 1920. Called The Tale of Johnny Mouse this book by Elizabeth Gordon was read and reread all the way through my earliest childhood. A line from that book became a line that our family repeated with regularity when the occasion called for it, "Hold on, for we shall go swiftly!" When we were driving and came to a steep hill, or riding a trike and taking off, or careening downstairs in a cardboard box, someone might say, "Hold on, for we shall go swiftly!" In the book, the action centers around Johnny Mouse as he is given rides by various flying animals as they help him fly to the moon. Each animal in turn says to him, "Hold on, for we shall go swiftly!" The line allowed for us to transcend the moment and became for my family an inclusive saying that we evoked often. It gave us a sense that we were a unit and had had shared experiences.
The same thing happens in the classroom. When I read The B.F.G. by Roald Dahl, we get to know the big, friendly giant who gets his words mixed up. He says to Sophie, "Little girls chitter all the time." He means they chatter--they talk nonstop. In the middle of the classroom at work, I might say, "Too much chittering; we need to get back to work." Everyone knows what I mean by that. We have brought the BFG into our classroom and he is now a part of our communal experience.
When Eileen reads about Pipkin, the perfect boy's boy in Bradbury's novel, the children are right there with her and with him. He has come into the classroom and can be referred to in the spring. When Laura reads about Pippi who is the strongest girl in the world, all of the children imagine that they know Pippi as a real person. When Tom takes out a picture book and reads about the Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, who isn't even scared when two big shoes go clomping down the road behind her, we (the Big Room children, and I, too) want Tom to read that book again and again because even though we know what is going to happen, we want to re-experience a little of the ruacuas, laughing joy of it again, and yes, a little bit of the spooky strangeness of it, too.When I read The Iron Giant, were surprised to find that we are rooting for him. At first, we thought that he would take the role of the one who must be ultimately done away with. But under poet Ted Hughes' empathetic words, we want the giant to be fed and accepted. All of the above examples are simply that-- examples that narrow down to the essential: we read not because we are required to read, but, if we have been given literature as children we know what it is to live with literature. We read because we are hungry for it.
|Merna telling a scary story|
Next month, we will be turning our attention to the bardic tales of Robin Hood as we get ready to attend the Seattle Children Theater's production of the legend. As we engage with the characters of Robin and all "his merry men" and of Maid Marian, we will be learning of the place the spoken word holds in the development of poetry. We will study some of the many ballads that have been collected and come to appreciate the fact that the tales of Robin Hood, as in many stories of folk origin, have no single author. They have come down to us via the spoken tradition.
We will be asking families to bring in books and materials that relate to the Robin Hood legend. We would love costumes and pretend bows and arrows and will be turning our dramatic play area into Sherwood Forest. All of the children will be participating in hearing the story told and in making it their own. We will keep everyone posted about when we attend the theater and will include four year olds in the trip. We are saving seats for each four year old to have a parent in attendance. Although there is dramatic, fighting action in the play, we will be discussing the choreography behind the action. We have found that when the children are well prepared, all ages really enjoy seeing a play that has some substance to it.
October 28, 2011