Thomas’s eyes went immediately to the book with wheels! They were black and shiny, and they actually moved! As we sat down to read during the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) Book Drive kickoff at Barnes and Noble, I was ready. I had even brought my own copy of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. It is one of my favorites to this day. I am not sure if that is because I remember my dad reading it, or because I know it frightened me at first. But, over time, I learned to love it in all of its warmth and mischief.
But here was Thomas. He was determined. “Can we pick the book!?!?” he asked multiple times. As I reluctantly said yes — I have some guilt when realizing that my first thoughts went to how to convince him that he really wanted to hear the book I wanted to read — something of the look in his eye and his enthusiasm for the firefighter book, caused me to stop and pivot.
“When children choose their own books, it is a declaration of independence as a reader and a commitment to a new journey.” Reading is Fundamental
We decided to sit on the floor and were joined by two younger girls. As I worked on mustering up my own enthusiasm for a book that ‘simply’ labeled the different fire trucks and reasons for their use, Thomas was so excited that he could not sit still. We began the read with Thomas showing us how the book moved and rolled all around the stage. During the read he was jumping up, pointing out trucks, fire hoses, fireman hats, fireman boots — and those wheels!
When we finished, with enthusiasm still high, it was on to another, The Itty Bitty Kitty. As we learned, the Kitty was not Itty, nor was it Bitty. It was big, purple, and full of mischief. Coincidentally, also in a firehouse which was of great interest to Thomas.
By the time the read-aloud was finished, my perspective had changed. I thought I was showing up to share my love of reading and raise awareness of its importance, but Max, from Where the Wild Things Are, was no longer in the plan. Life is a funny thing. What actually happened? Thomas shared his love of reading and showed me just how it’s done — with enthusiasm, whimsy, and interest. I received a critical reminder that it is important not to stifle a child’s enthusiasm because you think you have a better lesson. It is important to listen, engage, and meet children where they are. When I set ego and plans aside, magical things happened.
The SCGLR has many opportunities for us to engage in the community to ensure that our children are reading on grade-level by the time they leave third grade: a key indicator of high school graduation success. We hope you will find ways to engage that work for you. However, as you consider what you will do, think of Thomas. We all have different ways of hearing, seeing, learning, and engaging. The beauty of a movement is that we can “do the best we can” and try things outside of our comfort zone in order to meet our community where we are.