I love books. Being an early elementary educator for 6 years gave me an opportunity to collect many picture books that I used for mini lessons, put in my student library, or (let’s face it) were sitting in my garage for too long because I could not let my husband know I had gotten them off EBay (for a really good deal, promise.). I completely embraced that philosophy of allowing kids to be surrounded by books. Sure, guided reading works, but I also believed in kids finding books they fell in love with just because.
So, when I moved up to fourth grade this year, I was so grateful to find myself with colleagues that love books, that are avid readers, that share books and the stories every day. I love that, seriously they are brilliant! I could not tell them that I probably only read picture books for the past couple of years, sure there were some professional books scattered here and there but nothing like seeing and hearing of the many books they read. I have to say that in my younger years the library was my safe haven. I can recall going through phases checking out twenty picture books each weekend, or
finding the ghost stories, or finally realizing I loved to read R.L. Stine books even if I thought the stories were so good for such lousy endings. I wondered which book would be the first one I read.
One morning, Sofia (one of my students) walked in the classroom hugging a book and asking me if I had read it. Esperanza Rising. I told her no, but she began telling me the story of a young girl who has to leave her hometown in Mexico, where she lived in her father’s Ranch, and had to migrate to be a farmworker in California. The story line had already intrigued me. I asked her to tell me what chapter she was on, and to not tell me more of the story because we would read it together. My job was to find the book and begin reading. I was immediately drawn to the story. Pam Munoz Ryan’s description of the life of a thirteen year old girl’s world turned upside down from
riches and privilege to her transformation and return to being in tune with the earth tells a tale of resilience, growth, and the importance of community. Suffices to say that I could not put the book down, I was stealing minutes any chance I got. We would talk about it in class, and other kids were now curious about it. This is the first
book I read in fourth grade (as a teacher).
I have now looked for books, book recommendations, stories that draw me in and would draw my kids in. I get to fall in love with books all over again. Looking for books that engage my kiddos, seeing them excited as I hand them a new book for their book club is one of my favorite things about fourth grade. I love being surrounded by the
new buzz of a book, a Skype interview with an author, a list of book recommendations. I have been so lucky to work alongside teachers that have allowed me to learn and grow so much because of the type of teachers that they are, the type of colleagues that have made a transition in grade level seamless, and whose conversations I look forward to because of their dedication to what really matters.