The second graders and I, their volunteer weekly reader, knew that cheetahs are the fastest land animals, but we did not know that a group of cheetahs who hunt and hang out together is called a coalition.
The teacher Ms. B. had mentioned that her class really enjoys nonfiction. I found a new book, Cheetahs, written by Kate Riggs, at the public library, and reading it aloud led to lots of discussion about the big felines ("cousins of lions, right?") and talk about other animals, too. I loved listening to the group think out loud.
I did dodge the question, "How do cheetahs give birth, Ms. T.?" by responding with a happy "Like other mammals!" It turned out that the questioner really wanted to give his own answer, which was imaginative but off the mark. I left it to Ms. B. to correct, or not, at another time.
Part of a Creative Education series called "Amazing Animals," Cheetahs makes a great second-grade book, with large photographs (including, aww, baby cheetahs...you see where the question came from), large print and short paragraphs, lots of white space on the page (making it easy on the eyes), and definitions of possibly unfamiliar terms, like savanna, right there on the page. Many of the children can read it themselves, too. The book ends with a little recap of an "African" myth (I wish the author had been more specific; Africa is pretty large) of how the cheetah got its tear lines near its eyes.
The "Amazing Animals" series spotlights elephants, koalas, dolphins, and more; the kids want to hear Lions next. I have not read the others, but to judge from the response to Cheetahs, our friendly, non-hunting coaltion is onto something good.