Today we finished our read-aloud book that we’ve been reading for a few months now. It was fun, because the ending is very dramatic and involves a couple cliffhangers plus some false foreshadowing that our heroes lost the big game. But in the end they win, and it’s very exciting. My kids were too funny, because we kept stopping to make predictions when the narrator made it sound like they lost, and they were all bursting to tell their partner exactly why they thought the team lost. Then they would rise up on their knees to raise their hands, everyone making ooh-ooh noises, wanting to share with the class. After we shared predictions, though, they fell perfectly silent to hear every word of the next section. At the end of the book, when they announce the winning team by reading the names of all the players, my kids actually cheered out loud when they heard our heroes’ names.
When we finished the whole book, I told them I wanted to give them a chance to write about their reactions and to talk about them. They actually (gasp!) picked to write their reactions first, so we spent 15 minutes, which was all the time we had left, with them just writing. They wrote paragraphs, long run-on sentences of ideas, even a whole page explaining how they felt at the end, how worried they were that our team would lose, and what they thought the message of the story was.
The awesome part about all this was that my kids were very lukewarm about books at the beginning of the year. They were compliant, and they’d read what you gave them as best they could, but they didn’t really get into books or stories. When I asked them to free write, they had no idea what to say, because they didn’t really have any reactions to the book. They were kind of impartial. When I gave them actual questions to write about, they might write a sentence. Maybe two, if it was a red-letter day. Writing was so much harder than talking, and they didn’t really grasp the idea that writing is just another way of saying what you want to say.
Seeing them today made my heart happy, because I want my kids to be as excited about books as I am. I want them to love the story, feel connected to the characters, and understand the messages we can learn from books. I want them to be so excited they can’t wait to talk about them, and just as excited to write down what they’re thinking, because they’ve made the connection between saying something in writing and saying it out loud. They have been just that excited about this book. Maybe it’s because they’ve enjoyed the shared experience reading together, or because they can relate to the issues and story line. Whatever the reason, they saw this book the way true readers see books, and I was so happy for them.