In Which I Was a Read-Aloud Rock Star
April 14, 2008
But only because of Coleen Salley & Janet Stevens and Mo Willems.
Last week brought Read Aloud Day to the urban school where I volunteer as a tutor. Lots of people came in to read to each class, pre-K through 6th grades, and the book assigned to the first-grade readers was Epossumondas Saves the Day, written by Salley and illustrated by Stevens. Set in Louisiana, the book stars an opossum and resembles a Cajun Three Billy Goats Gruff. Plus, it features a whole heap of wacky Southern expressions. If you haven't tried this one at story time, I highly recommend doing so because it's such fun for a reader to ham it up. What seemed like too much shtick on an initial read-through made a rollicking read-aloud. I enjoyed hearing the first graders guffaw and chant along.
I then moved on to Mo Willems' Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, which I'd taken along in case Epossumondas didn't fly. That was far from the case, but why stop when you're on a roll? Willems' book grabbed thirty kids' attention right off the bat and held it until the end. The Pigeon books beg for interaction, talking directly to the listeners, and the kids ate it up, yelling "No!" each time the Pigeon asked to drive. They even wanted to hear it again, so I left the book with their teacher. (And had to buy my son a new copy on the way home.)
I love tutoring, but the first-graders occasionally struggle and get discouraged. Read Aloud Day, though, well, it rocked. Everyone could join in on the fun that reading brings.
what great choices - Coleen Salley is coming to my school next month - I can't WAIT to hear her read the story - I hear she is just a HOOT! The first graders at my school LOVE both of those books!
Posted by: Kathy | April 14, 2008 at 08:13 PM
Kathy, what fun! I read that Coleen S. is a storyteller as well as an author. I hope you'll report on her visit to your school.
Posted by: Susan T. | April 14, 2008 at 08:22 PM
I found it very nice to read how a parent had such a good time entertaining an entire 1st grade class of 30 kids with just a story. Prooves that literature is still not dead to kids...
Posted by: ywang17 | April 14, 2008 at 11:57 PM
One thing I miss in retirement is reading aloud to children. That was definitely one of my favorite things about teaching. I love the first book about that "noodlehead" EPOSSUMONDAS. I read it to the students in my children's literature class. What fun! I'm glad you and the kids had such a great time.
Posted by: Elaine Magliaro | April 15, 2008 at 09:32 AM
Ywang17 and Elaine, the kids were excellent listeners and were a happy, responsive audience. When we're in small groups, it's good for them to use their 8-page levelled readers to practice, of course, but what a good time we had with Coleen, Janet, and Mo!
Posted by: Susan T. | April 15, 2008 at 05:55 PM
There's nothing better than being a Read-Aloud Rock Star! You go, girl! Keep the leveled readers in their place and make sure you "fall them all in love" with GREAT BOOKS READ WELL!!!
Posted by: Mary Lee | April 16, 2008 at 05:47 AM
Hi Susan! I know it's been awhile, but here I am. I got to meet Coleen Salley at a dinner party 5 years ago, when I was hugely pregnant. She signed a copy of Epossumandus to "Peppercorn," which was my baby's nickname prior to giving birth. I don't remember what all she said, only that we were quite the captive audience. :)
Posted by: Alkelda | April 17, 2008 at 02:12 AM
Yay! Those Epossomondas books are great read-alouds. I love them!
Posted by: jules | April 17, 2008 at 05:55 PM
Hey, Mary Lee, Alkelda, and Jules! While we were in Mississippi for spring break (and thus not posting here, egads), my mom bought Junior his own copy of Epossumondas Saves the Day, and we read it every night. He still loves picture books--thank goodness. After visiting in Miss., he recognized the cypress tree that Epossumondas climbs to escape the great huge ugly Louisiana snapping turtle. We saw quite a few cypress trees on a hike one day.
Alkelda, how fun you got to meet Coleen Salley. I want to read her other books, too. So many authors out there!
Posted by: Susan T. | April 17, 2008 at 09:03 PM