Carrie Gaffney is the managing editor of The Educational Forum. She spent twelve years as a secondary English teacher and is still active in The National Writing Project and Second Story, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit devoted to bringing creativity to underserved schools.
Can you remember the last time you read aloud to someone? What about the last time someone read aloud to you?
I was reminded this morning of the time I used to devote to reading aloud, when my fourteen year old, completely unprompted, began to recite Shel Silverstein’s poem “Sick,” while in the carpool line at school.
“’I cannot go to school today,’ said little Peggy Ann McKay,” the poem begins.
After my daughter uttered those words, she and I recited several more lines in unison before we couldn’t remember any more of the poem.
“I can’t believe you still know that poem. It’s probably been ten years since we read Shel Silverstein,” I said.
“I know. But it was my favorite,” she replied. “We probably read that book 200 times!”
She’s right. When both of my children were too small to read on their own, we devoted almost embarrassing chunks of every evening to reading aloud. Reading was my first love, and something I was eager to pass along to my offspring. When I first introduced a book, I was the primary reader, of course, while my children listened and asked questions. But then, as they got used to the rhythm of the language or associated certain sentences with specific pictures, one of them would take charge of the narrative, and I became a listener instead.
Then, as they took the next steps in their journeys as readers, I morphed into a full-time listener, holding my breath each time one of them encountered a particularly challenging word so as not to shout out the correct pronunciation for them and ruin the flow.
And eventually, as it happens as readers progress, they ceased needing me at all, instead working through books on their own and including me only on the occasions that they needed me to fork out the $14.95 at Target for the next offering of their favorite series.
My daughter, now in high school, has progressed to reading Gilgamesh and The Hobbit for her classes. Her days of loving Shel Silverstein are well behind her.
That’s why it was such a treat, I guess, to hear her draw from some of those early reading memories this morning. Her recall of “Sick” is a reminder to me that I didn’t log all those hours as reader—and then as listener—in vain.
This week is National Young Readers Week. The program, which has been around since 1989, encourages students to log the time they read each day, striving to reach a minimum of twenty minutes. It also encourages adults to read aloud to the children in their lives.
What will you read to your students this week? How will you use the time you’ve been given with them to instill a love of reading? And, like the reminder I received from my daughter today, what will you want them to remember about the time you spent together, sharing words?