Three-and-a-half years ago, I retired from teaching. I am enjoying my retirement very much. My husband and I love getting up each morning and “setting our own agenda,” as I have said numerous times on this blog. But there are days when I miss (very much!) my students and colleagues and the world of my classroom. Reading together was the most joyous part of my teaching experience, so I’d like to share with you this post I wrote in November 2012 about the reading we were sharing and loving in my 2nd Grade classroom.
FALL SHARED READING
Our Reading Rug…where we sit to share all these wonderful books.
When I say that I haven’t been reading very much recently, it’s not exactly true. My own reading has slowed down for many reasons, but I am still reading every day and going through books like crazy! Here’s why…
This is my 27th year of teaching, and this year I have the world’s sweetest class of Second Graders. They love to read and love listening to stories, so we are compiling quite a list of books shared (our Read Aloud books). We have a Read Aloud time every morning after recess, and it’s amazing how many books you can read in just 20-30 minutes a day! Here’s our list of the books we have shared during our Read Aloud time on our Reading Rug so far this year:
- Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola
- Strega Nona: Her Story, by Tomie dePaola
- Big Anthony: His Story, by Tomie dePaola
- Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons, by Tomie dePaola
- Big Anthony and the Magic Ring, by Tomie dePaola
- Strega Nona Meets Her Match, by Tomie dePaola
- Strega Nona Takes a Vacation, by Tomie dePaola
- Strega Nona’s Harvest, by Tomie dePaola
- The Sunflower House, by Eve Bunting
- Tomie dePaola, by Eric Braun
- Mercy Watson to the Rescue, by Kate DiCamillo
- Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride, by Kate DiCamillo
- Akimbo and the Elephants, by Alexander McCall Smith
- Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen
- Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
- Blueberries For Sal, by Robert McCloskey
- Squanto and the Pilgrims, by A.M. Anderson
- Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson (Thanks, Mrs. Lux, for reading this to us at our Halloween party!)
- Gooney Bird Greene, by Lois Lowry
- Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Catwings Return, by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Jane on her Own: A Catwings Tale, by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Currently reading: Helen Keller, by Margaret Davidson
I am so sad to hear that Natalie Babbitt has passed. She is one of my favorite authors and I loved reading her books aloud to my 6th grade students when I was teaching. Most people remember her as the author of Tuck Everlasting, which is a book I loved and loved to use as a unit of study in the classroom. But my personal favorite of all her books is the hauntingly beautiful love story, The Eyes of the Amaryllis, a story about how love transcends death.
Her writing is so beautiful and her stories so honest and full of wisdom. Her books stole my heart many years ago and I loved sharing them with young people year after year. Her intelligent, beautiful, lyrical voice will be deeply missed!
Click here to read her obituary in the NY Times.
There are a number of fictional towns I would love to move to! During May, I spent a great deal of time enjoying the village of Fairacre while reading Village School, by Miss Read. I slowly savored the pleasure of reading about this quiet community as described through the eyes of the local school teacher. I loved the stories of the children and their families, and the teachers and their lives, and I loved becoming part of their community, if only for a while.
As a retired school teacher myself, I loved the honest portrayal of school life and a school year, and I appreciated the wry and compassionate humor of the Miss Read. Her descriptions were so true to my own experiences in the classroom. Here is one passage that perfectly describes a warm sunny afternoon in my own classroom a few years ago:
The lesson on the time-table was ‘Silent Reading’ and in various attitudes, some graceful and some not, the children sat or lay in the grass with their books propped before them. Some read avidly, flickering over the pages, their eyes scampering along the lines. But other lay on their stomachs, legs undulating, with their eyes fixed dreamily on the view before them, a grass between their lips, and eternity before them.
Spending time in Fairacre was a lovely experience! Fortunately, I don’t have to leave the village for quite awhile because Village School was just the first of the series and there are many more Fairacre books to read. Sounds like a lovely place to spend my summer!
We are enjoying a beautiful, early June vacation, and early June is such a beautiful time to travel! While teaching, early June would be filled with end-of-the-school year fun and stress, busy as could possibly be. Field trips, testing, finishing units and projects, report cards, and tenderheared goodbyes. In my old school district, there are still 8.5 days of school left! But now retired, we are able to enjoy traveling at a time when temperatures are mild, hillsides are lush green, and roads not yet jammed with traveling families. Ah…the joys of retirement.
So I brought my Kindle along on the trip, and my earphones for listening to my audiobooks. I’m enjoying my traveling reading and listening, relaxing over beautiful scenery and distances with these books:
Photo by Frank Hurley
January 1915. One hundred years ago, Ernest Shackleton‘s beautiful ship, Endurance, became completely locked in the ice of Antarctica. The story of this extraordinary expedition and the survival of the entire crew, despite being stranded for two years in one of the harshest environments in the world, is a fascinating story. All the men survived that experience because of the phenomenal leadership skills of Ernest Shackleton.
When I taught 6th grade many years ago, my teammates and I put together a January unit of study on the Shackleton story. We used Jennifer Armstrong’s book, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, as the basis of the unit, and the 6th graders became as fascinated by the story as we (the teachers) were!, It was a unit in which we focused on some very important life lessons–lessons and discussions about leadership, compassion, hope, and endurance.
So in the middle of January, I stopped everything I was doing and revisited that story in honor of my hero. I loved sharing that book and story with my students, and, if you haven’t read anything about Sir Ernest Shackleton and his ill-fated ship, Endurance, I urge you to pick up one of the many books about this expedition and discover why this man is one of my heroes. There are quite a few books to choose from, but I’m very fond of the little, nicely written book I used to introduce him to young people. It is also available as an audio download through Audible.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips, by James Hilton… What a gem, this little book! It perfectly describes the life and heart of a teacher, the joy of learning and of teaching, the love that goes into guiding/teaching the younger generations, and the simple but profound realization that the job of teacher is not a job but a calling.
How quickly, in one instant, years of happy life become only memories!
A Bridge for Passing, by Pearl S. Buck, was an interesting end for my 2014 reading year. Buck is a favorite author of mine, and I read her books slowly, absorbing her words and wisdom, enjoying the beauty of her prose.
I hadn’t heard of this book before, but when I saw the description of it, I knew it was my next read by her. One of my all time favorites of her books is The Big Wave, a story about life and death and what it means to be Japanese. I loved sharing it with my 6th grade students when I was teaching and we were studying the Pacific Rim countries. The discussions were so powerful. A Bridge for Passing is a memoir of the time when Buck was in Japan for the filming of The Big Wave. She had written the screenplay. During that time, she received word of the death of her husband, Richard Walsh. Her experiences in Japan at such a sad and difficult time provided solace and perspective, and became a “bridge” into her new life alone without her beloved husband. What an interesting experience to read this poignant book about grief and renewal, with its fascinating connection to another book I love!
We’ve had a month of dark foggy days, and this week our gray rainy days will return. It’s early-January winter! I am reminded of a favorite book, read aloud many times in my classroom[s] over the years, and it brightened this gray winter morning to pull it off my shelf and re-read it.
Frederick, by Leo Lionni, is about a group of mice gathering food for the winter. All are busy except for Frederick, who seems to be sitting on a rock in the sunshine doing nothing. But he IS doing something…he is collecting sun rays and colors and words. Later, in the middle of the dark, cold winter, when the food is scarce and the spirits are low, Frederick begins to tell the mice his stories. He weaves his memories of sunshine and colors into beautiful words which warm the hearts and lifts the spirits of his fellow mice. He is a storyteller and a poet!
I am having so much fun listening to the audiobook version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, narrated by the incredibly talented Anne Hathaway! It was already on my listening wishlist, when Audible offered it to me free as a Thanksgiving gift. (If you’d like to listen to a 28-minute excerpt from the book, click here.)
This book was one of my favorite yearly read-alouds when I was teaching. I’m missing those favorites now that I’m retired, so thought that I could give myself a gift of listening to someone else read it to me. Little did I know that Anne Hathaway, with her passionate love for character and acting, would be my reader. I love Audible for gifting me this audiobook, and I’m loving Anne’s fun-filled, energy-packed interpretation of L.Frank Baum’s wonderful words!