On Twitter, the other day, I posed a question to a friend about a possible first read aloud. Several others jumped into the conversation with suggestions for that first read aloud. So many possibilities, but none feel quite right. Last year, I wrote an article for Choice Literacy about my thinking behind that important first read aloud. For those of you that subscribe to the weekly Big Fresh from Choice Literacy, you may have seen it this week. Spending my summers thinking about my first read aloud is not something new for me. And in moving to a new grade level, I am finding myself doing even more thinking about it than usual. I'm never sure quite what I am looking for, so the search often continues until that day right before the students arrive.
The Read Aloud routine is an important one in our classroom. It is an anchor for reading and conversations and community. It is a time when I work hard to make sure 100% of students are in the classroom and I protect that time from pullouts and interruptions. It is important as students not only share a common story but we learn together how to think about and talk about stories in ways that change us--as readers and as people.
I know we'll read many picture books every day in the classroom, but in 3rd grade a chapter book read aloud is key as this transitional stage is a stage where children are learning to read longer books, stick with a plot, think across a longer text. I know that a chapter book is not a chapter book is not a chapter book and I want that first one to be one with a plot simple enough for all students to follow but complex enough with some things worth talking about. I want to start those conversations about what readers do when reading longer books, but more importantly, I want to start those conversations about books and the way they often change our lives.
The choice of the first read aloud is even harder because I don't know my students. I don't know their reading histories and I don't know much about them as people. I don't know if a child is going to walk in the door who who is suffering in some way. Our community will not yet be strong enough during that first read aloud for a student to come to me to say, "I don't think I can listen to this story right now in my life." as they might do later in the year when they understand that this is one of the decisions readers make.
There are so many books I can read to kids and they would love, but kids loving a book is not enough for me. I have found that kids love being read aloud to so much that most of them are going to love almost any book I read aloud and the year isn't long enough to read aloud that many books. So I have to choose a book for more reasons than just "kids will love it". It has to give me lots as a teacher --each book has to grow them, as readers, as people and as a community of learners.
Even though read aloud time is an anchor in our classroom and I do lots of teaching, read aloud feels to the kids like that time of pure joy. The book has to be so good that it naturally INVITES the conversations I want to happen and that there are so many invitations for talk and thinking that the talk happens naturally. I am looking for books that makes my "teacher work" during read aloud is almost invisible because the book pretty much does the work on its own.
Ideally, I'd love a book that none of the kids have read before. I value rereading but the first read aloud involves lots of kidwatching as I get to know each student and experiencing a new book can tell me so much.
So, it is nearly August 1 and I am still thinking. I will probably still be thinking for a few more weeks. I started a Pinterest board to keep track of my own thinking--keeping track of the books on the top of my list for the moment and books that I want to keep in mind for the first few months of the school year. I don't know if I'll stick with this list but it is a list of books I don't want to forget about yet. I know that after the first few days of school, when I know my kids and see how they respond to that first read aloud (whatever it may be) and I see the books they are reading and I start learning about who they are, I will know the perfect book to choose for our second read aloud. But that first read aloud....it is never an easy decision!