This year I am a weekly volunteer reader in two first-grade classes in addition to my usual second-grade gig. All three classes of eager learners bring joy to my morning. The city where I read offers a well-organized program for school volunteers, and reading aloud is such a fun thing to do if you have the time.
I read only one book in each class, and that works out well. Even first graders have a lot of tasks to get through in a day! Their wonderful teachers also read aloud to them, with the goal of getting the kiddos as much exposure to books and stories—and literacy—we can. All the classrooms have Smart Boards, and sometimes a read-aloud is projected there. Plus, the children have access to online books and laptops at school. The teachers maintain classroom libraries, too, and one of the first graders has insisted that I visit his school library because he thinks I would like it. I hope to next week!
The last book I read to the first graders was Saturn, by J.P. Bloom, part of a planet series from Abdo Kids. The children recognized it as nonfiction right away. We learned a lot, even though the text is relatively short. Saturn has some sixty moons, you cannot stand on Saturn because it is made of gas, and more. Several folks had questions about the sun, so that will be the topic of the next read-aloud. Another title they liked was James Marshall's Red Riding Hood. During the part where RRH goes into the scary woods, which Marshall renders pitch-black, one little girl on the front row reached out to hold her friend's hand. Just the sweetest thing in the world, right? Once we got through that, and laughed in relief at the huge hairy feet of the wolf pretending to be Grandma, we talked for a bit before wrapping up. You can't forget about the tender feelings of little people.
The second graders, who are less wiggly but equally chatty, especially enjoyed Dan Santat's Caldecott-winning picture book The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. We reminisced about imaginary friends, and I told them about mine (Mary Mércedes, accent on the first syllable, a big demander of extra place settings) when I was a little girl. On my way out of the class that day, one of the children asked, "Do you still have your imaginary friend?" I had to think about that a minute. Do I? Well, yes, I do. I think she's in here, I told the class, pointing to my head. Such a great question. This group also got a kick out of Rowboat Watkins' Rude Cakes, which gleefully turns the monster stereotype on its head. Making predictions during a crucial scene was fun.