In the craziness of my daily schedule, the thing I miss the most is being able to read aloud to my students. When I first started teaching, I had 15 minutes a day to read out loud. I did it every day after lunch. Now, I’m lucky if I get 5 minutes. This week, I think I got 5 minutes total. I’m reading The One and Only Ivan to my kids, but this week I read Room on the Broom because I thought it’d be a nice change for the season and I thought I’d have time to read on other days. I didn’t. And the worst thing is, the kids don’t miss it because it’s not a consistent part of the routine and they don’t know to miss it (and, possibly, the book I’m reading might be beyond their grasp. At least right now. I might have been too ambitious).
I don’t remember my 1-3 grade teacher reading out loud to us, although she must have, at least some time. But when I got to fourth grade, it was routine. I remember almost every book my 4-5 grade teacher read. The Magician’s Nephew; Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe ( in that order). I remember her looking for Turkish Delight for us to try, but she never found it (I do remember the first time I had Turkish Delight; it was rose flavored. I liked it, but wouldn’t betray anyone for it). She read 21 Balloons and By the Great Horned Spoon and Five Children and It (which was unfortunate, because the bullies in class immediately started calling one of the kids in class “It”). There were many more books she read (Detectives in Togas, which I read to my first class, and Greek Slave Boy, which I found again after many years of searching). She read Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, which I loved to much, I wrote and illustrated a sequel for her. Those read alouds were important to me, and I’m sad I can’t give that to my students.
I remember my first class. I taught sixth grade and decided to read Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. I’d read it before and therefore thought I was prepared to get through the whole book.
One day, I was reading along and getting to the emotional climax of the story when, suddenly, to my horror, I realized I wasn’t going to make it. My throat was closing and my eyes were burning and, yup. I was going to cry. And it wasn’t going to be pretty. My kids hadn’t realized what was happening in the story yet, so there I was, getting choked up, and they had no idea why. It was embarrassing.
But not quite as embarrassing as the first time I cried in front of a class. I was subbing and the class was difficult. Not horrible, but it’d been a rough day. The teacher had left me a book about Hiroshima to read for the kids, and they were really into it, so I kept reading. I was fine, I was fine, I was fine and then, quite abruptly, I was not fine in any sense of the word. I just started crying so hard because of the horrors I was reading. I’d never heard a class as quiet as that class. It was silent.
They were much better the rest of the day.
It’s important to read aloud to kids. It helps build vocabulary and understanding of language. It stimulates imagination, improves literacy skills. And it’s fun. It’s comforting and low stress. It’s a shame that reading aloud is not a priority for my district. I’m desperately trying to carve out five minutes a day and will continue to do so. It’s just going to have to take a little bit of imagination.