Playdates with God: Why You’re Never Too Old for Read Aloud (and a winner!)

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It was hat day at Buffalo Elementary. A little girl wearing purple polka-dotted panda ears greeted me at the door of Mrs. Crum’s third grade class. The boys had on baseball caps and cowboy hats and various camouflage toppers. Every dapper bonnet turned my way as I entered, curious. They’d never seen me before.

I was there for read aloud.

I pulled my bag of books in with me, a little nervous. It’s been years since I’ve read to a classroom of grade-schoolers. I didn’t know if I’d chosen the right books, if they liked stories, if they would be disrespectful or inattentive. I didn’t know if they would even care.

But there I was. Keeping a promise. Because, anxious as I was, I remembered. I remembered how the love of books changed my life. I remembered how difficult it is, in this mountain culture I grew up in, to break through the invisible lines of poverty and learn a different way. I remembered how books showed me a world outside of all I knew and gave me permission to dream.

That’s why I got involved with Read Aloud West Virginia. This nonprofit organization’s mission is to “change the literacy climate in West Virginia.” When I went through the volunteer training, the executive director Mary Kay Bond said, “Seventy-three percent of our children are not reading proficiently by the fourth grade (according to a study by Kids Count). We know that fourth grade is a benchmark; from pre-K to fourth grade kids are learning to read. But from fourth grade on they are reading to learn.”

She went on to cite studies that indicate that children who aren’t proficient readers by the fourth grade are more likely to drop out of school, more likely to engage in at risk behaviors such as substance abuse and antisocial acts. They have an increased risk of teen pregnancy and are more likely to end up in prison.

Reading skills are important.

And one thing we know is that the foundation for reading skills is laid from birth. The Study of Meaningful Differences found huge differences in the number of words children were exposed to—depending on their socioeconomic status. Children in families below the poverty level were exposed to 13 million words by age four, as opposed to those from families of professionals who were exposed to 45 million words.

Vocabulary is a huge component in the development of reading skills. Read Aloud West Virginia has programs from birth that encourage parents to read to their children. Classroom volunteers who read to the same kids on a regular basis are only a small part of what they do.

But it was the part that called my name.

I read to two classes that day and we had a blast. I had forgotten how much I loved read aloud time. I had forgotten how lovely it is to be engulfed in a sea of rapt young faces caught up in story.

I can’t wait to go back.

Just in case you’re wondering, here are the titles I read to the third grade class. These were wonderful books to stimulate discussion. They were simple, stand-alone books, rather than chapter books. I might try some chapter books when I know the kids a little better. But these books were great tools to get to know the kids better.

Grandmother Winter by Phyllis Root, Illustrated by Beth Krommes. It was snowing outside the window as I read and this was the perfect book to start with. We talked about imagery, metaphor, and soaked in the beautiful artwork. They loved this one.

The Secret Science Project that Almost Ate the Whole School by Judy Sierra, Illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Oh, my goodness we laughed so hard. The pictures are wonderful in this book and there is an ick factor that the kids loved. It was a great rhymy read.

Our Yard is Full of Birds by Anne Rockwell, Illustrated by Lizzie Rockwell. This book stimulated a lot of discussion about hobbies (because I am a birdwatcher) and the kids loved sharing. We talked about our state bird and identified several others. It was cool.

Would you believe half an hour sifted through my fingers after reading only three books? It was because we had such great conversation. I didn’t get to half the books I brought with me. Next I read to a first grade class and that was super fun.

Here are the books I read to the first grade class:

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. This one never gets old. I used to read it to my boys every winter. The kids were enthralled. We talked about winter in the city as opposed to their country home. And when Peter put the snowball in his pocket? I could have cried for how cute they were.

Phil the Ventriloquist by Robert Kraus. This was a new one for me but I loved it’s silliness. And the kids learned a new word to tell their parents.

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds. I bought this book for my Jeffrey when he was small. This story that encourages creativity is a special one for me. I hope it gave those earnest faces permission to express themselves freely.

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. This one was the all around winner and the kids requested I bring it again next time. They cackled so loud that their teacher and her aide stopped what they were doing and started watching us. It was show-stopping fun.

Have you read aloud to a child lately? If not, you are missing out on some of the purest fun ever. I highly recommend this as an antidote to the winter doldrums. And, oh, yeah, we have a winner to announce! The winner of Fight Back with Joy by Margaret Feinberg, as well as the other book bundle books is … (drum roll please):

Kit Tosello! Congratulations, Kit. I’ll be in touch.

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

Laura Boggess

Comments

  1. says

    I love this, Laura!

    One of my fondest memeories of my father is of him reading aloud to us children, at bedtime…one chapter from the Bible followed by a chapter from a favorite novel. My teenage stepson thinks he’s too old to be read to, now. But my grandkids all insist on my reading to them whenever they come over.

    I love it! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      What a blessed man you are to have had a father who read to you, Joe. We are very grateful to have a good number of men who volunteer at Read Aloud WV. It makes such a difference, especially for the boys, to have male role models who enjoy reading. My boys don’t do read aloud with me anymore either :(, though I think my soon-to-be 16 year old would let me read to him until we pass into the yonder but our schedules are so incongruent now. Sigh. Everything changes. What a gift you give your grandkids when you sit with them and read.

  2. says

    I haven’t read a book aloud to a child in, well, a very long time! Probably it was with my boys when they were little, although I love to read a chapter or two aloud with my husband and talk about it afterwards, Laura. Does that count?! 😉 I think reading is so foundational in life. I was thinking about this just the other day b/c I have a marriage prayer group that follows different readings for each week–including prayers, Bible verses and challenges. But some of the women are not getting as much out of it because they hate to read. I think of all the times and ways we need to “read” to really immerse ourselves in something. If we are struggling to get through a reading or feel it is too difficult to sift through, then we miss out on the amazing blessings God has for us if we’re avid readers. Great challenge, my friend. Thanks for hosting too!

    • says

      oh my goodness, Beth, because I love to read, I can’t imagine anyone not loving to read! But they’re out there! And I had to laugh, because my reading aloud looks just like yours-I read things aloud to my husband…but I see him looking at his computer if I’ve gone on too long.

    • says

      I’m with Mary, Beth: I can’t imagine not loving to read! And, yes, I think it counts when you read to your hubs ;). My husband is not much of a reader but he will tolerate my outbursts of, “Will you listen to this?!” Or, “Is this the most beautiful bit of prose you’ve ever heard?” etc., etc. I seriously swoon over words sometimes. Yes, amazing blessings for us avid readers, indeed.

  3. says

    Laura, I find those statistics quite shocking, even though I know they’re true. The Snowy Day was my FAVORITE book as a child, and imagine my delight when my daughter decided it was one of HER favorite books! It’s still a good one!

    • says

      I found myself getting emotional as I read it, Mary, remembering reading it to my boys. It was like greeting an old friend. But I am such a goofball over books. I’m so grateful for my bloggy friends who understand this 🙂

  4. says

    Loved this, Laura. Michael and I have been reading aloud to each other the last few years. Usually George MacDonald novels, but marriage books as well. Love the peace and closeness it brings. Thanks 🙂

    • says

      Oh, I love George MacDonald, though I haven’t read a lot of him. When the boys were young, we read The Back of the North Wind. So lovely. Do you have a favorite you would recommend, Sheila?

  5. says

    The Snowy Day! Ah! That book stirred my childhood wonder before I’d ever seen real snow. I’m sure your own love for reading books was infectious to those little ones, Laura. Sounds like a great program. And again, THANK YOU for my book prize! Can’t wait to stack ’em on my nightstand and dig in!

  6. says

    I can think of no better way to spend a play date with God than to surround yourself with kids and let them fall in love with the written word. Love this! You have encouraged me to think of ways I can surround myself with kids this year and love on them like this!

    • says

      Oh, Nicki, it was so much fun. I was very nervous, which kind of cracks me up. Those kids were so hungry for a story. I know you will be blessed beyond measure if you are able to do something like this. Keep me posted!

    • says

      These books were simple, but created a great space for sharing, Becky. The kids really seemed to enjoy every one. I was amazed how quickly the time went. Good luck in your “secret reading”!

  7. says

    Oh, Laura, this is so fine! Reading…did you mention reading aloud to kids? !!! I tutor children who are running behind from the first grade and reading is the core of my teaching. I loved to teach reading when I was a classroom teacher and find that the joy of seeing a child learn to put letters into words and then sentences is so exciting for me, maybe as much as for the child and their parents! Then I became a children’s librarian…what better next job could I have taken!!!! : )
    Reading is vital to all skills and subjects. Beginning early is the way it begins!
    I love this program in West Virginia. I think we all ought to be doing this.
    Love this, ~ linda

    • says

      Linda! I didn’t know all this about you! What a wonderful blessing you must be to the children you work with. I’m excited to make this a regular part of my life. I didn’t realize how much I missed sharing books with kids. It’s so rewarding, isn’t it? Bless you for your tender heart and for the good work you do, lady. Much love.

  8. Dea Moore says

    Love this so much, Laura. Last week my golden locks granddaughter had her first birthday at the library. It was a Sunday afternoon and we had read-alouds before the guest and the guest of honor “illustrated” a pages for a book about the birthday girl and the “fun days” she likes to plan and live out in her short little life. They glued and colored pages to bring the days to life and then we read the new soon to be bound book aloud. It was a perfect birthday for a 4 year old who is quite precocious. And the best part, most of the birthday present were books!

    • says

      Oh, Dea, what a perfect birthday party! I get all choked up when I think what a wonderful gift you are giving your golden locks girl. Sharing a love of words is such a special place to meet. I never had anyone to share that with when I was a girl. Bless you as you bring the days to life, my friend.

  9. says

    I’m super excited about the book list – I mentor a second grader in a low income area and I would love to pick one of the ones you listed. I love how you are connecting and reaching out in your community in a needed area.

  10. says

    How lovely! I love, love, love read-alouds. I used to do it often with my girls. Nowadays my opportunities are limited but one day I hope to have grandkids to read aloud to. Thanks for sharing this gift with the kids in West Virginia. What a blessing for all.

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