Slice of Life: The Year Begins with Read Aloud

Just make a mark and see where it takes you.
— Vashti’s teacher, The Dot by Peter Reynolds

This line bounced out of the first day of school’s read aloud. It hit me not just for what it might mean for my students as they crack open that brand new writer’s notebook, but what it means for me as I open to the first page of this year’s teaching journey.

That nervous, excited feeling of the first day of school is a part of every year. But this day, this year, everything is new in every way. I enter the classroom with the same feeling my students have. Brand new to the room and the grade level. We will sit together on a brand new carpet, and we will christen it with picture books read alouds.

We’ll take that first step with Marla Frazee’s wise words in Walk On.  Even though our first steps are scary, sitting around doing the same safe thing will bore us to tears.

If we try hard enough, we will fail like Rosie Revere and the little girl in the Most Magnificient Thing.  We’ll fly, right before we crash. And if we don’t give up, if we persist, the memory of flight will push us onward.

Easy, it’s not. We’ll stumble and have set backs and want to give up.

We might pull the flowers and not the weeds like Francisco in A Day’s Work. Painful as it may be, we’ll have to face up to our mistakes. Otherwise, how will we learn to tend our garden?

We may doubt our abilities. It might be easier to make excuses. But, like Farah in One Green Apple, Chibi in Crow Boy, and Emmanuel in Emmanuel’s Dream, we will keep on through difficulties. We have hope even when things seem impossible and uncomfortable.

Characters like Beekle will light our way. We may be different or think differently. But like Maya in Going Places and Donna Jo Napoli’s Albert, we will find our way. To that person, that place. That fits us. And in doing so, we’ll soar above the rest.

My students and I are sure to have moments that resemble the darker side of Vashti in The Dot. The side that says, I can’t. That turns away.


But, if we just make that mark, take that step, our journey will continue.  We’ll reach out with our pens and our hearts and discover the world and ourselves.

Here’s starting the year with picture books. Here’s to a year of discovery.


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesday. Read more slices here.


16 thoughts on “Slice of Life: The Year Begins with Read Aloud

  1. We have shared 8 picture books so far in our 6 days of school (and we are reading a chapter book too). My problem is I want to share ALLLLLLL the books and I am finding it hard to limit myself a bit! There are so many just right books to share!

  2. I love how you incorporated the picture books in this post. You will be making your mark on this fresh new class. All my best for a great year!

  3. I felt calm just reading this. You may, if you already don’t know it, want to check out #10for10 picturebooks on Google+. Lots of wonderful titles. Given our national leadership issues, the more truly diverse books and ideas, the better. Thanks:)

  4. I love this post so much! (What Michelle said!) As always, you’ve inspired me as a teacher and as a writer and have left me thinking how fortunate your students are to have you for a teacher. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I love that you lifted that line, one of my all-time favorite lines to quote, from The Dot, hearing its invitation in a whole new context. And I love how you imagine relating to all the characters, making those other books feel real and alive. Happy New Year to you and your lucky kids!

  6. Oh, I loved this post! I loved seeing the character’s names and remembering old friends. This post was lyrical and wise, commanding, but gentle. Here’s to using books to show kids the way. Your kids are lucky to have such a well read teacher who loves books to lead them!

  7. What an important message to begin your year with! Books and words matter. Your students are lucky to have you, Julieanne! Have a great start to your year! (PS- I heard from Margaret that I will get to meet you at NCTE!! Can’t wait!)

  8. Your kids are beyond lucky to have a teacher who not only makes reading aloud a priority but who puts so much thought into all of the books she picks. I’m sure it’s going to be another fantastic year in your classroom!

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