I love reading aloud to kids. I’m having so much fun reading FLORA AND ULYSSES: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo to my group of 12 fourth graders. These students come from three classes and were selected to work with me for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with motivation and comprehension issues. A few of them try to be “too cool for school.” Some try to mask difficulties or lack of success by not caring. Some are not yet aware that they are not “getting it.” A lot of fake reading has been going on. My time with them is in addition to their regular language arts block. I know I don’t have magic and I’m certainly not a perfect teacher, but there is the hope that I can somehow make a difference. It’s a humbling responsibility, but a challenge that excites me.
Today they learned the joy of saying, “Holy unanticipated occurrences!” I loved watching the transformation on their faces when they opened up enough to let themselves have fun saying those words. We said it a lot with feeling. You could see self-consciousness melt away for many of them as they laughed at the image of a squirrel covered with the dust from eating a bag of cheese puffs! For students who are pressured by today’s world to grow up too fast, to leave childhood too early, I feel happy when I can create a place or moment to let all of that pressure go and allow exuberance and hilarity in the classroom. I know that memories are more powerful when emotions are attached. When we can attach those happy feelings with reading books, we have taken an important step toward creating readers.
We’ve been discussing Flora’s view of herself as a cynic vs. her openness to the possibility of unanticipated occurrences. We’ve had some good discussions about the contrasts and contradictions that make Flora an interesting character. I’m not sure yet how this intervention will work out, but I have to trust the process that if positive experiences with books and reading are created and repeated, readers and writers will grow. Will it be measurable on a test? I don’t know. Will it be measurable in a life? I think it could be immeasurable or there may even be “holy unanticipated occurrences!”