Ah, reading to first graders: Can anything be easier and more fun? Today was Read Aloud Day in my daughter Cate’s class. Parents were encouraged to come in and read to the kids for a 20-minute block of time (or more if you liked). I signed up, as did four other parents. All in all, the kids got more than two solid hours of reading—a pretty sweet deal for them!
I totally stressed about what to read. It’s odd (or maybe it’s totally natural), but I’m completely confident recommending books for other people to read aloud, but this time I froze up a bit when it came time to make my own selections. I took notes on the back of envelopes as I cooked dinner. I walked through the house pulling books off shelves. I sought my daughter’s counsel, holding options up for her yays or nays.
I needn’t have worried. First graders LIKE EVERYTHING! Seriously, I think I could read the newspaper to them and they’d give me that open-mouthed smile, laughing when they sensed a joke (even if they didn’t get it), clapping at the end, begging for more when I was done.
But still, I put some thought into it. I considered:
- Should I read chapter books or picture book? Roald Dahl and similar chapter books are big in first grade. And picture books can be hard to read aloud, as you have to show the picture and read at the same time. But if I do a chapter book, I won’t be able to read it all. I also worried about the English language learners in our class.
- Should I try to find something Cate hasn’t heard? That would be more fun for her, right? But that would mean a trip to the library and a book that I haven’t road-tested.
- Should I go funny and modern or moving and poetic? Long and descriptive or short and pithy? Patricia Polacco or Mo Willems?
Finally, I went with picture books, books Cate already knew (but approved), and books that were (mostly) funny. Here’s what I read to room 208 today:
Scranimals. My kids love these poems about made-up hybrid animals (the Rhinocerose, the Parotter, the Broccolion!), and we’ve read the book many times through. I randomly read about six poems to the kids, and they loved keeping quiet until the end, when I encouraged them to shout out the combinations (rhino + rose! parrot + otter! broccoli + lion!). Big hit.
Interrupting Chicken. I don’t totally get this book, and I’m not a natural performer or comic, so I don’t know if I give the best rendition, but I can’t deny it’s a crowd-pleaser nonetheless. (When I suggested it to Cate, she said, “Oh yes, definitely that one.” She knows a first grade blockbuster when she sees one.)
Library Lion. This is one of my top five favorite picture books of all time. The kids paid close attention and oohed, awed, and laughed at all the right parts. I had to be very careful toward the end not to cry—I focused on really non-moving things, like my grocery list. I loooove this book.
And here are the back-ups I brought in but didn’t get a chance to read:
Dogger. I didn’t read Dogger, because we ran out of time, but I’m pretty sure it would have gone over swimmingly. If you don’t know this adorable book (another one that makes me cry), check it out immediately. Especially if you’re an Anglophile.
It Looked Like Spilt Milk. I grabbed this one off the shelf because it’s short and visual and entertaining—good for a read aloud. Maybe next time.
Wild About Books. I grabbed this one too because it’s fairly new to us, so Cate hasn’t heard it a million times, it rhymes (so it’s fun to read aloud), and it’s about books, so it somehow felt appropriate.
Next week, I have a steeper challenge: Read Aloud Day in 205—the fourth graders. Yikes.