Monday, October 21, 2013

Guest Post by Volunteer, Wendy Baker

Gratts Elementary x 2
Or, My Second Time Reading at Gratts Elementary School

I couldn’t wait to read A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz —the book designated to be read to the 4th graders on October 12. Sometime during the week I’d fallen under its spell, devouring it in bed each night, and I was dying to read it to the kids. 

You see, it’s a prequel and sequel to the Grimm brothers’ tale of “Hansel and Gretel,” and it’s written in the same shockingly horrid style of the Grimm brothers with running commentary from the author that is both psychologically astute and cynically adolescent—something that I knew the kids would love as they got deeper and deeper into the story.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Really? Psychologically astute comments from the author about the story and the kids love it?” But you’ve got to trust me.

Abel, one of my co-readers that day, read the author’s comments while my other co-reader Andy and I split up reading the story. None of us had worked together before, but judging from the rapport that Abel had with the kids, I knew he’d do a great job. That proved to be an understatement; what a natural! Abel didn’t even sound like he was reading but just sharing his thoughts with the kids. They loved it.

The three of us volunteers had a large group of 15 kids, and many of them had never heard of “Hansel and Gretel,” but it didn’t matter. A good story is a good story.  When we came to difficult words, we’d stop and ask the kids what they thought the word meant in the context that it was being used, and I was surprised at how close they came to the definition. We’d also ask them what they thought was going to happen next—a strategy that elicited wild and crazy responses, mainly from the boys. By the time we finished Chapter 1, the kids were clamoring for more.

A volunteer's craft sample at the October 12th Reading Club.

Then it was time for arts and crafts. Fourth-grade Grade Level Coordinator Claudina Soriano had brought foam Halloween cutouts—some already glittered—with adhesive on the back (no need for those pesky glue sticks that always go missing), which were a big hit. The kids made ghostly, ghastly, and other worldly pictures, each one as unique as they are. When the announcement came that it was time for Raul the magician (back in the auditorium), the kids had had such a good time that they were all like little soldiers about cleaning and straightening up. Then they lined up at the door and we passed out The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan to each one of them (their “gift book”).

A few of the kids asked me how many chapters were in The Red Pyramid, which gave me the chance to show them how they could find that out for themselves by looking in the Table of Contents. The fact that The Red Pyramid had forty chapters seemed quite daunting to the kids, so I asked one little girl how many chapters she was used to reading. “Twelve” was her answer. “Just think how good you’ll feel when you can read forty,” I said, her eyes grew wide and sparkled with excitement.
-Wendy Baker, Volunteer

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