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.