On February 16, we celebrated World Read Aloud Day.
This celebration calls global attention to the joy of reading out loud with others. This was the first year we have taken part in the celebration. We celebrate Read Across America in different ways throughout the school on March 2, but I have seen some amazing things colleagues like Andy Plemmons (Expect the Miraculous) and Shannon McClintock Miller (The Library Voice) have done with WRAD and I wanted to help our students connect with others around the country in a different way. Author Kate Messner promotes a Google doc schedule on her website that authors can fill out to volunteer for Skype visits with schools.
My first step was to send a notice out to the school, to see who would be interested in going on this adventure. I am so fortunate that there are many teachers who have collaborated with me over the years and we have developed enough trust that they are willing to “get in the sandbox” with me on a new project.
Within an hour, at least one teacher in each grade level responded that they wanted to play. With six grades, I started brainstorming ways our students could connect with the outside world. I knew we wanted to meet some authors – we have a new video conferencing system this year and 1st and 2nd grades have Skyped with authors Salina Yoon and Laura Numeroff. Other teachers wanted to know when their turn could come. This was it!
I paired 3rd grade with humorous author Alan Katz (right) and 5th grade with author Kirby Larson. Kirby has written some terrific historical fiction books and is a Newbery Honor winner for Hattie Big Sky. She has written several books about dogs during wartime (Dash, Liberty, and Duke) and my students know I am a sucker for a dog story. Both grades loved hearing about the authors’ processes and asking questions.
I wanted students to connect with other students in our system, so I reached out to my colleague Kandis Lewis-Thomas at Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry, here in Gainesville. Kandi and I decided to conduct virtual story times for each other. I invited 1st and 2nd graders and she invited kindergartners. Kandis read the wonderfully spooky jump tale Taily-po.
Taily-po builds suspense and ends in a jump! Julian said, “She got me!”
I read “Bob, not Bob! *To be read as though you have the worst cold ever.” This was a brand new book by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, with hilarious illustrations by Matthew Cordell. This is the most fun read aloud I have experienced in a while. The kinders loved it.
Our kindergartners are beginning to read whole books and I wanted them to read with community helpers. Officer Alford, our School Resource Officer and Deputy Watson, our ADVANCE officer both stopped by to read with kindergartners and 4th graders
Kim showed Officer Alford her book.
Deputy Watson read with 4th graders.
Connecting with our elders was important to us at Sugar Hill. Our Sweet Notes Choir performs at Smoky Springs Retirement Community each December, so I contacted their activities director to see if they would be interested in visiting for WRAD. We share a bus driver with Smoky Springs, so Ms. Carrie brought a group over. We even enlisted her to
read with our 4th graders. One of our visitors was a retired teacher, but they were all enchanted by our students. I loved watching a real bond develop between the children and their elders. I would bet that this is the first time some of the adults heard Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Captain Underpants! It is exciting to get community members involved in the school.
Finally, we had two brave kindergartners who stood up in the middle of the room and read to buddies at Johnson High School by Skype. The teens were so encouraging to the two little boys and their faces lit up when they successfully read their books to the whole high school library.
The day took a great deal of planning, and sometimes I felt as if I were juggling 15 balls at once, but our visitors had a wonderful time.Even when things didn’t go strictly according to schedule, we rolled with it. The Smoky Springs bus ran late and 4th graders were arriving to read during their lunch times. I drafted our principal and instructional coach (amazing women – thanks Mrs. Skarda and Mrs. Mauldin!)
Our guests were extremely complimentary toward our students. I heard that the Smoky Springs visitors were all a-bubble when they went home. All of the students who took part (especially the individual readers) went back to their grades and told their friends what a good time they had. I’m already planning next year. Teachers who heard about it after the fact are asking to be included. It was a truly joyful day to share reading with a friend.
Junie B even shared the joy of reading with Ms. Frizzle