This year I promised my fourth graders that I would read 30 to 50 pages a night. Just like them. Every year, my reading life dissolves when school starts. The day-to-day eats up my energy, and the end result is the absence of a reading life. By committing to my kiddos, daily reading is now a necessary part of my teaching life. I’m doing it for them, but I get added benefits.
Last week I read Laurel Synder’s beautiful Orphan Island, a story about the joys of childhood and the pain associated with stepping away from it. Each orphan brought to the island as a young child, soon forgets what and who they came from. Their world becomes the magical island and the eight other children. With the arrival of a new child each year, the eldest must leave. On the same boat. The same day. It’s the rule, and it maintains the balance of nine. The next eldest becomes the Elder and is responsible for teaching the newest orphan, or Care, three things: to swim, to fish and to read. Swimming and fishing are essential on an island, and reading is the children’s source of entertainment and information of the outside world. All they know is their island, and the world presented in books. Jinny the eldest loves the island and refuses to leave when it is her time.
Each morning this week I shared Orphan Island with students by talking about how the writer made me feel; what I’m thinking and I tried to explain why. I’d read a line, or two show the magical way Synder brought the setting to life. I shared the time when I stayed up late reading because it was impossible not to read on. You know that feeling? I asked my students when you must turn the page.
By Thursday, one of my students asked if he could borrow the book. Of course, I want to share. But, when I came to the end of this book, I wonder this is something for an older student. The magic and adventure would appeal to a young fourth grader, but the meaning of this book would be lost on those still on the island of childhood. Perhaps by the end of fifth grade. Or perhaps I am sheltering them. Just as Jinny did with her Care, Ess.
This year I’m also keeping track of my reading. It’s a choice on my part as it is for my students. This simple tracker of pages read was designed by my brilliant colleague, Michelle for students who want it. She showed it to me last year, and I recoiled at the thought of it. But, as we started the school year, I revisited it and decided to give it a try. So far it’s easy and rather satisfying. Each morning before we talk, I record my reading with the kids who have chosen this method.
My reading life is alive and living beside my students.