Saturday, December 31, 2011

Never Too Old To Be Read To

I have long been an advocate of the power of reading aloud. 

When my children were little we would curl up together on the couch and have adventures galore via wonderful books.  I’ll never forget my son running from the room when he couldn’t bear to hear another moment of the gripping drama unfolding in Meet Addy by Connie Porter, or the laughter we shared when Morris the Moose got a cold and Boris the Bear cared for him (series by B. Wiseman).  For years, he and his sister had imaginary orphan adventures after hearing The Boxcar Children and tales from The Orphan Train Quartet. 

Later, when my son went through a reluctant reader spell, I had only to read the first chapter aloud of something I knew he’d like before he’d begrudgingly grab it, saying, “Ok, I’ll read it.” 

When I became an elementary school librarian, the greatest joy of each day was coming to the end of a story and watching several hands thrust in the air with pleading cries of, “Can I have that book!?” 

In my own classroom the magic continued, but deepened, with the addition of chapter books and strategic stopping points.  “Noooooooooooo!  You can’t stop there!!!!!  Just a little more!”  Followed by a sheepish and a bit smug, “Tomorrow.”   

Lately I’ve been reminded of the power of a good story after reading aloud to a gravely ill friend.  She mentioned in a Facebook post that her current medication affected her eyes, making reading difficult.  When I asked if I might come read to her, she said yes.  We started with one of my favorites, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.  We made if halfway through in our first sitting and finished it in the second.  This dear friend cried, then laughed through her tears, exclaiming that she couldn’t believe she cared so much about a china rabbit.  I guess we are never too old to be carried away by beautiful words and the powerful magic of the read aloud.   

 cross posted at

Friday, December 9, 2011


Learning is not attained by chance.  It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.  
~ Abigail Adams

Learning can be fun, but there is a span of time between initial attempt and acquirement where the learner may feel tentative and unsure. 

I was at Joan's house when she was training her new puppy to come down the stairs independently.  She'd plop him up on the second step and lovingly coax and encourage.  Cooper wagged his little behind nervously while looking from the goal (the floor) to Joan (the coach) and back to the goal again.  Time and tenuous successes led to independence, evidenced by a puppy who now zooms up and down the stairs whether Joan wants him to or not. 

My daughter and I recently tried to get my grandbaby to take his first steps.  I laughed when I recognized how similar it was to Cooper's process.  My daughter and I sat about 2 feet apart, aimed Caleb, and the receiver would coax and encourage with open arms.  Caleb was at first completely conflicted, desiring to span the distance, but looking at us like "Are you serious?  I'm not sure I can do this!"  Initial Frankenstein steps have progressed to bowlegged cowboy ones, and his joy in the skill is such that he wanders around the house now just because it's fun. 

My heart longs to know how to play the guitar.   My son recently tried to teach me two chords.  Trying to manipulate my left hand into the unfamiliar and unnatural claw shapes required feels beyond my ability.  Even though the end result is something I really want, this phase of learning is far from fun. 

These recent experiences have created mental snapshots that have me thinking about the process of learning. Being a primary teacher, I tend to be sunny and positive and have a "Learning is Fun" mantra….but perhaps it would better serve my kids to say "Learning is sometimes really hard!  The fun comes once the skill is acquired, so the hard work is worth it.  We must be diligent."

Reading isn't fun yet for my struggling readers.  Thinking mathematically isn't fun for the students who haven't yet developed number sense.  But, if I coach well, if we all coach well, we can move through the parts that are just plain hard work, knowing that joy and fun are on the other side. 

(cross posted at