A (Crooked Kind of) Perfect Reading Moment

Each time I start a new read aloud with my students I wonder if it will sink or swim. I hope that my kids will love the book and get a lot out of it, but part of me always worries that they will hate the book and we will have to stop reading it part way through.

It seems like each read aloud has a moment when you know whether or not the book is going to reach your readers. The moments are always different. The moment in The One and Only Ivan occurred on page one (such a perfect page one). In Because of Winn-Dixie we experienced it when Opal took Winn Dixie home.

I’d rather not share the moments of failed read alouds. It isn’t always pretty, and it always makes me super sad.

Last week I started reading my students Linda Urban’s A Crooked Kind of Perfect. I knew that this book was going to be a little harder for my third graders than the other books I have read aloud. My gut told me that they were ready to be pushed. During the first two days of reading A Crooked Kind of Perfect I couldn’t tell if the book was going to work for us or not. They seemed to be enjoying the book, but I could tell they weren’t coming around as quickly as they had done in the past. I expected this. We don’t fall in love with every book in the first chapter.

I knew that yesterday’s reading was going to contain “the moment”. The reading began with my fingers crossed behind the book, hoping that the moment would mean that we fell for Urban’s Zoe and we would continue the reading.

During the reading Zoe is invited to her ex-best friend Emma Dent’s ¬†house for Emma’s birthday party. I’m not going to in depth about what we read, but you should know that the part where Zoe gives Emma her present, and the part where Emma’s parents give Emma her present is where we experienced the moment.

I knew that we had entered the moment when all movement in the room stopped. For a split second it felt like the world had stopped spinning. My kids don’t exactly sit still and listen to the read aloud like little angels: they doodle, play with erasers, stand, walk around. I know they are listening (most of the time), but to the untrained eye it might not look real pretty. When we entered “the moment” the room stood still. I ¬†could see in their eyes that Zoe was no longer the girl that felt left out. They were experiencing the moment as if they were the ones giving the present. They were the ones with a broken heart.

As I stared at 28 pairs of heartbroken eyes, the hairs on my arm stood up and goosebumps lined my arms. It took everything in me to not smile. A smile would have ruined the moment. The swallowed smile turned into a tear. A happy tear. A proud tear.

I didn’t experience the moment of Zoe giving the gift to Emma Dent like my students did. I was too busy savoring the moment of my community of readers falling deeper in love with reading.

25 Comments
  1. Susanna, you have to read it! It’s so great! I love this post, Colby. Do you power through and read the ones that don’t work? We’ve read a few here that were duds, but I think we’ve finished them all, though they all took a long (torturous) time.

  2. I would love this if I wasn’t the principal of these kids, but knowing these are my kids “falling deeper in love with reading” makes me love it even more! What a beautiful moment!

  3. Thanks for sharing this -‘ I’ve had those moments also and you’ve so captured the miraculous feeling! I’m looking for a new chapter book read aloud for 1st grade. Do you ( or anyone reading this ) have a suggestion or two?

  4. I love this post! It is a special moment when you see the words swim with your class. I’ve had more success than failure but the sinking of a few books have always stuck with me.

  5. Well, I got goosebumps just reading about this special moment. This is possibly my favorite L. Urban book, and I know the exact part you’re talking about. So glad that your class fell under the spell of a well-told story :)

  6. I was thinking about this exact thing this week. My class is three handfuls this year, so very loud and unruly, but the moments that they are the quietest, the most thoughtful, are during read aloud. There were passages during Ivan, and now The Real Boy, that calmed the fidgety beast, and silenced the incessant drone. If I could just read aloud all day, management would be a lot easier. Good stories soothe and calm.

  7. I loved this post and felt your words,as I’ve been there before. In fact, just yesterday as I read the final chapter of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane to my 4th graders! When they realized Abilene was the grown woman looking at Edward, I too felt all movement stop! I also love that your room is moving during read aloud…mine too ; )

  8. What a great post! I know exactly what you were feeling. We had to put aside a read aloud this year that just didn’t work with my classes, and I was very sad. When one works, it is a joy!

    • I’m so glad others have had this experience too. I felt awful for needing to abandon a read aloud. It was a great book, but it just didn’t work this year. I felt so guilty! We are on to new books and it’s awesome! Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a great read aloud! The 6th graders LOVE it!

  9. Thank you for writing about the “moment” when the class stands still. It has happened in my classroom. Your post brought up those realizations and made me realize that those moments are often fleeting and you helped to make me realize that I need to stay with those moments, write and reflect about that magic.

  10. My third graders had a similar incident while we were reading Freaky Fast Frankie Joe (a bit beyond them, but like you, I thought they could be nudged into it). What a wonderful example of the power of print when the entire room is connected by a cry, a gasp, or giggle!

  11. Thank you for sharing, Colby. I love having THAT moment with my 3rd graders! There is something about reading aloud, no matter what the age, that is so special, like we’re all in on a big secret! (It is my favorite thing to share during the school day!)

  12. This is beautiful, Colby. You are right — it is this moment that captures readers. When they experience it as a community, they are one step closer to experiencing it individually.

  13. Thank you for this post about read alouds! My students are sixth graders, but no matter how old you are, I cherish that moment! It’s a gift to be able to witness it. My students are doodling their way through the read aloud…something new I’m trying & loving it! Thanks for such a terrific post!

  14. You captured a word picture of that special moment. I loved my 4th Graders’ reactions as I read aloud “Bud, Not Buddy”. When the truth about Bud’s family sinks into their minds, they suddenly realize how the entire plot fits together like a puzzle. Thanks for sharing!

  15. I love that moment! With 8th grade listeners those still moments are so rare. I love when the read aloud captures their attention so much. Those moments are the ones to savor. I love how you captured this very real teaching moment in such a beautiful way.

  16. Pingback: Sunday Salon: A Round-Up of Weekly Reading | the dirigible plum

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