I started read aloud, asking students if books took them places. Most students nodded. Then I added, “In books I love, I see myself in the character. I feel like they do. It’s like holding up a mirror, seeing a bit of me in them. Have you ever had this happen to you?”
One or two students nodded, but the majority looked at me like I was crazy. Even my most perceptive readers looked confused.
Then I dug around, giving them some examples from our past read alouds. Saying, “have any of you felt like …”
I was losing them, so I dropped it and pulled out Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose.
In this story, Kid feels it’s his right and duty to crush Ant, but Ant begs Kid to see the world through his eyes.
I ask students, do you see bits of yourself on this page? Have you ever felt this way? At first they identify with Kid.
Then Kid says, how can you feel anything you’re so small. Ant replies,
I ask, “have you ever felt so small and asked this same question?”
“Yes! With my parents!”
Bingo. A shift from Kid to Ant. For a moment, they see themselves in this character. Ant is them.
Students have strong beliefs. “Ant should live! He has a family. They should become friends!”
I’ve spent the year reading books that revolve around kindness. Students could see it in the story. They know who’s the bully, and they don’t like him. But, then they’d go to the playground and call another student “Auggie.”
How could they not see they were being the bully they hated in the story? I hadn’t considered they didn’t see themselves in characters.
This week we will be practicing finding ourselves in picture books characters. Today students had a tiny aha. I had a big aha. Maybe more will be found if we just clean our lenses and look for it.
Thank you, Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Stacey and Tara of Two Writing Teachers blog for hosting the Slice of Life March Story Challenge. Read other bloggers slices here.