Little People Are Doing Big Things!

It dawned on me–I’ve been blogging with Reading Ambassadors in 3-5, hearing insightful plans from third grade book room volunteers, visiting my kinder friends during writing and revisiting my first graders during snack–all over our building, little people are doing BIG things.

……

We’ve turned the calendar page into October and our kindergarten writers are embarking on their very first writing unit. They spent a few weeks acclimating to school and learning how to form letters. When I stopped by yesterday afternoon to say hello and borrow a smile, one friend asked, “Why are you here now?”

Another declared, “You should come when we’re writing! We can write quietly all by ourselves for fifteen minutes.” (I’m not even kidding. Those were his words) And when I suggested that I’d love to come see that in action, he replied, “It’s in the morning, you know.”

So this morning I brought my own smile and arrived just before their teacher sent them off with a mission to write. On her signal, fourteen little bodies leapt up into line for their new booklet. They carried it proudly to their tables, standing tall, backs arched just a little. Most of them settled quickly and quietly into sketching their plan, and I voiced over how impressed I was about that (as a gentle reminder to the few who needed to notice the models around them).

I settled in next to many of those writers across the following minutes, asking what they were writing about, commenting on the story I was seeing in their pictures, occasionally reminding them of a tool in the room for finding the words they wanted. I was simply there to marvel at how much they’ve grown as kindergarteners and writers since I spent the first two weeks with them.

The chime sounded and twenty-eight hands lifted in the air. It sounded again and they folded together in front of proud writers. I took a moment to marvel with and at their teacher as they packed up their writing folders.

…….

Grinning, I headed off to first grade.

I tiptoed in from the back of the room during partner reading and curled up alongside a partnership. Soon their chime sounded and the teacher’s voice called them to the carpet. I stayed to visit as they transitioned to snack time. It was a selfish choice. I hadn’t been standing long when my customary hug came along.

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Generally, snack time hasn’t been a focus for me. As a coach I try to maximize the time I have during instruction–popping from one room to the next while reading and writing are in action. But I’d noticed something about snack time in this room on previous visits.

As each child finished eating, he would walk to the library for an interest book (even though it wasn’t just right), she would pull out scissors to cut the traced hand, they would stage a read aloud in the book nook. All over the room these little people were making big choices. With no visible direction from the teacher, they pursued their own interests. That’s impressive and exciting enough on their own. But what I saw was both contagious and collaborative. When Z opened his book, E wandered over to share in the reading. When A was cutting out her handprint, K decided to trace hers too and make it a note for someone at home. J orchestrated a read aloud that engaged almost half her classmates.

For these children, school is still a place where they use what they know to do the things they care about. My heart grew three sizes today.

….

Contemplating a morning of wonders, I thought back to before school when fifteen students arrived early on a chilly fall morning to write…because they wanted to. The second session in the blogging workshop had many of them completing their first posts and publishing them to kidblog.

Excitement rippled through the entire 3rd grade contingent when I showed one how to share her Google draft with her tablemates. It erupted when I showed her how to share so that they could comment. The de facto boys’ table overheard the girls’ table and came to investigate. Soon, they too, were sharing to the whole group.

It only got better. We shared the Kidblog platform with the group. Suddenly, they can share beyond the table or the room! And they’re hungry for it. For some that meant hitting publish before checking for pesky details like capital letters. For others it meant an agonizing double-rechecking of every punctuation mark. They’re eager for their voices to be heard–for their words to be seen. Some are talking directly to authors. (Imagine their surprise when we tweet it directly to that author!) Others are admonishing the rest of us to be kind to others who may be different.

Good advice.

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……

I got more good advice yesterday. It was most surprising because I wasn’t expecting it.

The 3rd grade book room volunteers met for the first time. I was expecting to tell them what sorts of projects I had in mind for the book room and how they could help.

Instead, Adam told me.

Very politely, Adam pointed out several (completely legitimate) things that need to be taken care of.

“Those labels are pretty good,” he comforted, “but it would be even better if they were bigger. You might even decide you want to add pictures of some book covers from that section so readers know what they might find there.”

Yeah. He has a future running conferences.

“What are you planning to do with those clipboards for book sign outs?” he asked. Almost immediately he added, “You could probably hang them on hooks up there over those shelves. That would be out of the way, but kids could still reach.”

You have a point, sir. Noted: add hooks to my Amazon cart.

I imagined these volunteers would be extra hands, but would need careful guidance. Forget that. They have a vision. I’m going to provide the tools they need and get out of the way!

How cool is it that they’ll be here for another two years? If they’re taking ownership of the space at the beginning of 3rd grade…what could they accomplish by the end of 5th?!

These little people are doing big things and it makes my heart happy. 

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#IMWAYR It’s Monday What Are You Reading?

 

It’s that time of year again!

No, not fall. Not hockey season, either–though actually it is both of those.

It’s time to select the titles for our school-wide Celebration of Reading.

 

In the past we’ve done a One School One Book celebration for our K-5 building. We’ve shared Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales, A Cricket in Times Square, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, and most recently A Snicker of Magic. It’s not easy selecting titles that will engage readers from 5 years old through eleven…AND keep families reading for the entire month of March. We had some terrific titles and generous authors (Thank you @_natalielloyd and @CGrabenstein!).

But this year, based on feedback from families and our PTO, we’re changing the celebration.

 

Ready to hear what it will be?

Ta Da

…A month-long #ClassroomBookaday challenge

 

The new celebration will be complete with classroom challenge, family #bookaday challenges, and a Stock Up Celebration for families at our local library after hours (technically just on their late night).

So this Booktober I’m reading scads and scads of picture book #bookaday candidates.

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Hint: We liked these a lot! (Only 2 ½ more weeks of books to choose)

 

Today I’ll be returning the first test batch and scouring the stacks for recommended titles by authors H-Z…or maybe not so far. We’ll see how many I can stack in my arms after my bag is full!

Happy reading!

Clickety clack. Clickety clack. Kicking off our blogging workshop.

You know they’re hooked when the bell rings

and the click clacking of keys doesn’t even slow down. 

Today I greeted a new crop of Reading Ambassadors at the front door before school. There were grins and waves as they piled out of cars at the curb or hustled down the sidewalk from the parking lot. A returning 5th grade Ambassador manned the clipboard and checked everyone in before meeting in the library.

By the time I met them there, Mrs. Mastropietro had everyone logged into our Google Classroom. Then we met at the carpet.

Blogging Ideas:

After reading a book – blog about feelings and connections
Book recommendations after reading a book
Blog about experiences of feeling stuck when trying to find a book to read, etc
Practice reading lessons when blogging
Blog posts about characters – letters to characters
Blog about life lessons
Blog about a series of books
Things that you love to do or things that you love
Comparing books with other books, Like Try Why

We shared what we knew so far about blogs (more than I expected!), brainstormed the kinds of things we might blog about, and shared a mentor blog by theLivBits.

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The group noticed so much about her blogging style. TheLivBits often starts with a question as a hook. She always ends with the same tagline, “Keep reading! Keep thinking!” Her post is full of feeling and shares a kind of life lesson. In addition, they noticed how she recommended the book Now without ever having to say, “Go read it.”

Then came the best part!

Our blogging Ambassadors were off to start their own very first posts.

Heads huddles around laptops. Fingers searched out the next letter. And thoughts emerged on the screens around the library. The clickety clack was interrupted only by a search, here or there, for just the book they were thinking of.

A gentle warning announced the final two minutes. Clickety clack. Clickety clack.

The harsh buzzer of a bell sounded to declare school was starting. Clickety clack. Clickety clack.

Nary a one blinked. Still fingers pecked at keyboards. Still thoughts emerged. Clickety clack. Clickety clack.

Finally, the spell was broken.

One by one writers  closed their computers and gathered their backpacks and lunches. Two by two or in clumps of three they waved and ventured out to meet the day.

That sound will be with me all day. Clickety clack. Clickety clack.

Happy writing, everyone!

 

 

 

#BestPartofMyDay Reading Ambassadors Volunteer for the Book Room

“What do we get to do?!”

“Can we put away the books?!”

I gathered a handful of our 4th grade Reading Ambassadors today during our Extended Learning Time, a flex block used for intervention and extensions. When they met me in the hallway between their classrooms I whisper shouted, “I’m so excited! This is our very first Reading Ambassador event of the year!” Around me I was met with a hushed version of a rock concert crowd.

“Let me show you some of the projects I have in mind.” We tiptoed through the 5th grade hall like we were getting away with something while they worked.

I went on to describe some short term-getting organized, ongoing-staying organized, and in between book promotion projects. The first was shelving the returned books. You wouldn’t believe how excited these kids were to push the return cart around to different sections of the book room to return books to their homes. For half an hour they showed each other books and said things like, “Where do you think this should go?” or, “I think I saw this one over there. I’ll take it.” But I also heard, “Oh, I might want to read this one!”

When our half hour was up, they groaned.

“When can we come back?” they chorused.

Oh, my fantasticos, you can come back every week!

…….

The book room houses nearly all the multiple copy sets of books for our K-5 building. The idea was to ensure that we got the most bang for our book budget. Before establishing it sets of books languished dusty and forgotten in back closets, no longer used by that teacher, but unavailable to any others. Needless to say, the ever growing collection is a big job to maintain. And the job has fallen to me as the literacy leader. Between my many hats–intervention, coaching, curriculum, professional development, district projects, etc.–it’s been tough to keep the collection organized and displayed in the way I’d like to see it. I’ve been able to give it periodic, but infrequent bursts of attention. Originally we thought teachers would shop there to augment their class libraries for readers outside the typical range for their grade, or for a different topic, but it has become common for student readers to shop the book room directly. It gets a LOT of traffic.

Although I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to get parent volunteers to maintain the book room. (They do generously donate their time to our school library.) So when we were sending out invitations to a new crop of Reading Ambassadors for this year, I thought it was worth asking if anyone would be willing to occasionally volunteer in the book room.

I was astounded by the response. 75% of our Ambassadors have volunteered–more than opted to be part of our literacy maker space. (That might change when they figure out what it is!) Today was the orientation session for the 4th grade volunteers.

I do appreciate their time and energy to tidy up the book room. More importantly, I hope to build their ownership of the space, resources, and the collection. I want them to feel that at PES we as readers take care of each other.

I hope that they’ll find books they like.

I hope they’ll recommend books to others through their displays, book talks, or even just handing the book they just finished to someone and saying, “Here. I think you might like it.”

I hope that once they know where to find books (and put them away) they’ll share the knowledge with their classmates and other readers. We’ve already talked about needing better labels. Eventually, they may even suggest better ways to categorize or organize the books.

I am beyond thrilled that they feel so lucky to help. That’s more than I hoped.

(Just wait til next week. They get to stamp books!)

 

P.S. One lesson learned already: I’ve organized the historical fiction by time period or theme instead of level. No one else is able to follow my system so far. We’ll either need elaborate labeling…or a new system that works for the readers we want to use the books!

The Haircut Fiasco…or Learning Independence the Long Way

We’re a hockey family. Just turned out that way. So floppy sheepdog hockey hair is something I came to terms with years ago. For a while the boys chose (with some encouragement) to get one haircut a year before school started. Then the season started and as the schedule grew longer so did their hair. Eventually one boy decided to skip even the back-to-school trim and opted for the chin length mop.

It’s that time of year again. We’re back on the ice. Games have started. A tournament looms just days away. So I was startled when Qaiden asked for a haircut.

“Wait, what?” I asked the rearview mirror. I saw him push the damp shaggy fringe out of his eyes. “I mean, of course. Not tonight, but we can definitely get you a haircut.”

I wasn’t about to press and accidentally talk him out of it.

So after a handful of tightly packed evenings and Mondays when the barber is closed, we found ourselves driving up to the barber shop just before 5:00, sweaty from cross country practice but with no more sports for the night.

The waiting area was crammed with men and boys and their accompanying moms and siblings. It looked like standing room only. But there are five or six barbers who keep things moving.

“OK, do you have a pocket? Here’s the money for your haircut. I’m going to wait out here.”

“How much tip should I give?” Q inquired.

I was impressed he’d thought to ask so I figured this was it, a good chance for independence. He’s going to be the one to say how he wants his hair cut anyway. I’m just the driver and the bank.

I pulled out a book and settled in at the outdoor table to wait. I finished a few chapters. Several people came out. Several more went in. I craned my neck to look for the bright jersey Q was wearing. Yup, still there in the corner with his headphones in. Back to my book.

Well, it started to get chilly. My fleece was now zipped to my chin and I realized I was 70-odd pages into this book. I put my finger between the pages to hold my place and walked inside to the counter with a sign that clearly says:

Please Sign In Here.

I checked the book for his name. I flipped back to the previous page. All those names had been crossed out. His was nowhere to be found. The waiting room still bristled with new people sitting and standing too close together. There he sat, looking mildly bored with his headphones.

I added his name to the list for “First available” barber pressing a little harder with the pen than was strictly necessary.

“Qaiden.” I watched for him to look up, “Qaiden!” When he glanced my way I pointed to the book and he shrugged. I couldn’t help it in that moment, the mom eyes flashed “really?!”

I huffed and puffed my way outside. Too irritated, and chilly, to sit at the table any longer I headed for the relative cocoon  of my car. I continued to read, but fitfully, a couple of pages, crane my neck to get a glimpse of him. Couple more pages, squint to see into the waiting room.

Until I looked up and the shades had been drawn down. Closing.

Again I huffed out of the car and over to the door. As I opened it and peered in there was only one other man remaining in the waiting area and he was watching his son on the barber’s chair. Qaiden remained in his corner.

After a quick conversation with the only barber not currently cutting hair–a conversation in which I really hope my words were less sharp than my eyes felt–he said someone would be with us shortly and proceeded to wrap the cape around the last man standing.

I was left to chit chat with his first grade son and his lollipop.

I was left steaming. Too irritated to talk. Too much a teacher not to respond to an innocent six year old. (Really, who could be mad when someone half your height is showing you his wiggly tooth?)

As the first grader kept pointing out, the clock now read 6:30.

Finally, as the other barbers packed up and walked out to their evening freedom, one young barber called Q to his chair.

I was prepared for the world’s fastest, slap dash haircut so he could get home, too. I almost welcomed it so we could get home for dinner on the one night there was nowhere else to be.

But he took his time. Shave. Shave. “Do you want it shorter over here?” Snip snip snip. Comb. “How’s that?” Comb. “How about some gel? Let’s style it up.” Squirt, rub, toussle, comb. Blow dry. Brush. Blow dry. Brush. Snip snip snip. “How about the warm foam?” The what? “Oh yeah, for a cut like this you have to.” Foam slathers the back of Q’s neck. Out comes the straight razor. Scrape. Scrape. Swish swish swish to brush away the loose hair.

Then off comes the cape.

I swear he looks two years older.

“Thank you for taking your time. He looks great.” And I tip to assuage my irritation and guilt.

I wrap my arm around Q and squeeze his shoulders as we walk out.

“I’m really sorry, Mom,” he says deflated as we sag to the car.

“You know what? Don’t worry about it. Your haircut looks great,” I assure him. “And I bet you’ll never make that same mistake again.”

 

 

A Wisp of Memory from the Mirror

The soft early morning light played through the window. My seven year old self sat on the landing at the turning of the stairs. No one was awake yet. Since we were at my Memére’s I was entertaining myself with my imagination. This early fairies may still be dancing circles in the grass. Ents may be sneaking back to their stillness.

My toes rubbed against the smooth fabric of the carpet on the stairs. In my memory it is a mossy green. A sensation crawled across the back of my neck. I looked back over my shoulder from the window. Dust motes sparkled in the air. The patterned wallpaper drew my gaze up and up and up the stairs.

Hovering there near the top was a figure draped in white. Silver hair streamed down and down and down waist length. I froze. A chill crept over me. Although I didn’t have a word for it at the time I stared wide eyed at the apparition sliding down toward me in the crook of the steps.

Finally regaining control of my legs, I fled through the house.

…..

Another slip of memory always floats close behind this one.

I stand hesitantly at the open bathroom door. My Memére L. stands before the mirror, no longer in her long nightgown. Her silver hair neatly brushed and swept around and around until all of it disappears into a tidy bun. Two small hairpins hold the waist-length locks in place.

I don’t know if those memories are of the same day. But they are the only times I ever saw Emma Lucas’ hair out of it’s tidy bun. The first time terrified me. The second fascinates me still. At first I wondered, why hide such silky silver hair? Later when her Alzheimers meant she could no longer manage her own hair, someone cut it short. She looked shorn and unlike herself. More and more days I find myself twisting my own hair into a bun. Simple. Easy to manage. My hair isn’t that long any more, but still I’ve never discovered how to tame it with pins. I’ve hoped for years that I would grow old as she did–still vibrant and full of life, even her hair still strong and beautiful.

 

#IMWAYR The World

Usually when I post to #IMWAYR, I’m writing about a children’s book that I’ve gobbled up. Today, I am reading the news (and hearing and seeing it).

Today I am reading Las Vegas.

Today I am reading Puerto Rico.

Today I am reading about Catalan children defending schools against national riot police.

Thankfully, yesterday I read Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. Thankfully, today I also saw a post from Peter Reynolds. Thankfully, today I read the warm faces of children.

But I am left asking, how can we read and write and will a better world into existence?

How can we?

Because we must.

Make More Light

Meltdown

Yesterday when I passed my kindergarten friends in the hall, a spunky little friend at the head of the line asked, “So when are you coming to visit us? You should, you know.”

It’s been a long hot week. This afternoon I headed down to kindergarten. As I approached the door the kinders were on the carpet with the lights out.

“Oh, good. A read aloud,” I thought.

I settled into a teeny chair behind the rug and noticed one boy sitting with the classroom aide and repeatedly calling out, “Volleyball! Volleyball!” in a silly voice. He isn’t one of our learning center friends, just a boy who’s had a rough transition into kindergarten. Already this year he’s become acquainted with our principal.

Looking closer I could see the teacher was wilted. Soon the children packed up and got in line for afternoon recess.

That was the moment when Brady* melted down completely. He flopped to his back on the floor, nearly missing cracking his head on the floor. He started swinging his feet at the children in line. Only the teacher’s quick response prevented him from kicking his classmates as they moved past him and out the door.

I ushered the back of the line out to the hall and watched to be sure there was a second adult outside before I returned to the classroom door to back up the teacher. I paused at the door to take in the situation. Brady picked up the trash can. He banged it up and down, watching her the whole time. When she didn’t react, he turned the can over and slammed it upside down. As he lifted the can he shook it to be sure every piece of drippy snacktime trash fluttered to the floor.

Her only reaction was to take a pair of disposable gloves out of the cabinet. I contemplated closing the door in case Brady decided to bolt. I looked down the hall both ways as I tried to decide.

When I looked back, I couldn’t see the teacher anywhere. There was Brady standing near the wall. It looked like he was talking to himself and pointing. It took a moment to remember that his teacher had told me recently about that mood chart. Each color represents a mood and she’s been using it to help her kinders express how they’re feeling. Brady wasn’t alone at all. From behind the shelves I saw his teacher’s hand reach up to the chart, and heard her disembodied voice.

“If you’re here,” she probed quietly, pointing to the top of the yellow square, “what can we do to get you back down here?” She pointed again, but lower in the yellow box.

I couldn’t hear what Brody said, but he responded to her. No longer was there kicking or upheaval.

Deciding that she had the situation well in hand, and that an audience might do more harm than good, I followed the class outside. Not many minutes had passed when she and Brady came down the hall hand in hand to collect their class for the Mystery Reader.

When I first arrived, Brady’s teacher was worn out from what had been a long week and a difficult day. But it was like she blossomed as he melted down. She appeared to instinctively know how to deescalate the situation. And more than that, she showed that in spite of behavior that would have pushed the buttons of many adults (myself included), she truly cared about this child. She never got angry. She got down on the floor near him and asked him what he needed.

Brady’s teacher is new to our school community–but boy, she’s a keeper! And though I haven’t been looking forward to half a day of state mandated deescalation training for the entire district en masse next week, I would gladly learn alongside this tremendous young teacher any time.

 

*Not student’s actual name.

 

 

Getting Past Paralysis

shriveled cornI stood in my kitchen between sports drop off and pick up. Several shriveled ears of corn caught my eye. Ugh! They were a guilty reminder that I’d let several produce items go to waste since last Wednesday when I picked up the previous farm box in spite of good intentions. And there next to them were a dozen fresh ears of corn from today’s farm excursion.

The corn conundrum made me remember something my new 4th grade teacher said to me yesterday.

“There’s just so much with the mini lessons and the small groups. I sorted them into groups from the pre-assessment, but then I wasn’t sure those groups were right so…I haven’t really started groups yet. I don’t even know where to start.”

……..

My frazzled mom self, exhausted from a cross country meet with so little parking I practically had to jog the course myself to get to where my son was, a trip to pick up our CSA box, a drop off at the rink, and then walking in to a kitchen whose vegetables have clearly seen better days could totally relate to that first year teacher.

She didn’t mention all the other things, the math, the lunch count, scheduling the guidance lesson, and SLOs, but they were all looming. Just as I still faced studying with my boys for a combined four tests tomorrow, and the announcement at 9:00 that my younger son absolutely needed the load of delicates washed because he needs shorts for practice tomorrow–“I put the clothes in the washer, Mom, but I don’t know how to turn it on. Oh, and can you please try to make sure it gets in the dryer?”

With so much on our plates as teachers, it’s easy to understand the deer in headlights look. Sometimes teachers don’t know what to tackle first. They want to do the exact right thing and it can be paralyzing.

I had asked the first year teacher how small groups were going because I didn’t see any happening. While I was moving around her room and conferring to get a sense of her class, she sat shuffling a stack of the pre-assessments looking uncomfortable. It wasn’t an accusation. It was a conversation starter. And her response gushed out like it was a relief to get it off her chest. She explained that she didn’t want to do the groups wrong so she had sorted and resorted them, but couldn’t decide.

“You aren’t going to hurt them by trying a group, even if it isn’t the perfect group. Don’t worry. Any group is a good start if it gets you started,” I assured her. “Would it help if I took a look at those and sketched out one way groups might look? I could come tomorrow and teach a couple of groups so you could see what they might look like. Then we could talk about how I decided and what might come next.”

“Really? You wouldn’t mind? That would be such a help.”

So last night (which thankfully was a little less hectic on the mom front) I sorted her readers based on their pre-assessments and penciled in small group plans for the next week and a half. Those plans included a primary goal, a list of which few students needed to start with that goal, and gradual release over about three meetings. I also created a couple of demo pages in my reading notebook for those groups. Because I feel confident naming possible next steps, it only took about half an hour. But really I was able to get it done because I recognized that any personalized instruction could benefit readers. It was entirely likely that some readers would need multiple things. I could choose one knowing that I’d get to another one later on. I also avoided paralysis because I knew that if I found myself with a group sitting in front of me and one reader didn’t fit well, I could always say, “off you go,” and catch up to them in a conference.

Today I shared the plan for the groups. I scheduled two a day so the first and second groups needed something very similar. I suggested that I could model as many groups as she needed, but if she felt ready I could model the first and she could repeat it with the next group. We could repeat that pattern across the next several days until she felt more comfortable.

Something imperfect that happens is better than the perfect thing that never will.

Both my boys ate left-over boxed macaroni and cheese tonight that I made this morning just so they’d eat something. It wasn’t perfect. But stirring the powdered cheese in at 6:00 this morning meant that at 6:00 tonight I could tackle the other things that were important to my family today. And I’ll admit, I didn’t quiz anyone on chemistry or algebra. That may have been ideal, but realistically what I could manage was to quiz them on AP Government and Latin American geography. They are both fed, showered, and in bed. Tomorrow is another day at home.

And it will be another day in classrooms. Tomorrow we’ll pick up where we left off with small groups and conferring. There’s always more to do.

Which reminds me…I have a dozen more ears of corn to vacuum seal.

 

Priceless

This is why we teach.

A few weeks ago school opened and we welcomed around 20 new students to our K-5 building. Since I get to meet nearly all of our new friends before they begin, I make a point to follow up and see how it’s going for them in their new classes. Often it’s a smile and “How’s it going?” Occasionally, it’s an additional reading assessment–an extra chance to hear them read and finish pinpointing a just right starting place. I chat with the children, and their teachers.

It was the first week of school when I met “Fred” for the first time. He arrived to us from a very different community and school. For him the early grades were not a positive experience. He was prickly and defensive.

“I do NOT read,” he declared. “I DON’T do work.” And to make matters more challenging, he constantly expected to be disrespected by peers (and possibly adults), so he lashed out quickly if he felt threatened.

His teacher negotiated with him to read one page of a book during the day’s reading workshop. When I pulled him to my office to get to know him, I managed to coax and cajole a reluctant three pages.

Fast forward.

Last week, his teacher reported that he finished his book, came to her and announced, “This level is too easy for me now. Can I have a harder book?”

That was two days after he laboriously plodded through the entire state-mandated universal screening assessment online, carefully reading and rereading every passage although it was well above where he was reading independently.

Two days after that he finished Andy Shane and asked for harder books again.

………..

This past weekend I was at nErDcampNNE in Freeport, Maine. At the author evening on Friday I came across a few Andy Shane books. I looked up and there was Jennifer Richard Jacobson. We chatted and she signed a copy to “Fred.”

Back at school today I made a visit to his classroom. I pulled up alongside him at his reading spot on the carpet and listened as he worked his way through a page–solving ‘engineer’ along the way. I interrupted him and explained how I’d met the author over the weekend.

“When I met her, I thought of you so she signed this copy of the book for you,” I flipped to her inscription. His eyes rounded. “This one is for you to keep forever.”

He turned to look at his teacher and she smiled at me over his head. “He’s smiling so big,” she mouthed when he turned back to me.

As I moved to speak with her, he got up from his zone. We soon realized that he had taken the book and was showing the inscription to the other students.

“This is for me. The author signed it,” he repeated to each one. Just a few short weeks after he arrived, he trusted that they would be as happy for him as he was.

He came up to me and said, “could a teacher write a note to my mom in case she doesn’t believe me about this book?” I agreed thinking I’d drop off a note before the end of the day. He immediately handed me a pad of sticky notes and his pencil. He wasn’t letting me leave his sight until he had airtight proof.

I’ve lined up at midnight for book releases. But I have never, in my life, seen someone so happy to receive a book.

I’m glad he liked the book. But I’m ecstatic that he now views himself as a reader.

His teacher is wonderful. She’s shown him both respect and limits since he arrived. She’s managed to convince him that our school is the kind of place where we’re all readers. Where we all care about one another.

He believed her, so now he believes in himself.