As a literacy coach in four elementary school buildings, I interact with a LOT of students. I try to greet every student that I meet in the hallways, libraries and cafeteria. I try to remember their names, but there are hundreds and hundreds to keep straight. They’ve been known to mangle my name as well (I often joke ‘Bourque rhymes with jerk, not dork!’) Even if I cannot recall a name, these interactions are important-they are connections that tell the child… I notice you. I care about you.
Recently I’ve tried a different exchange that has produced some different results. I still say good morning or good afternoon as we pass in the hallways, but I’ve added a new salutation…”Whatcha readin’?” Kids who were ready to echo back a “Hi.” stop and look down at their book and then share the title. Not only do most seem eager to tell me something about it, but they almost always engage in a brief conversation that is much more personal than our traditional ‘hellos’. They’ll share a brief summary, talk about titles of other books, or ask me if I’ve read it. If I have, I’ll share my thoughts. If I haven’t, I’ll ask them if they would recommend it.
Now when I see them in the hallway, many students initiate the conversation with, “Guess what I’m reading now?” or “Mrs. Bourque, here’s my new book.” Our schools have recently started a 25 Book Challenge and so many more kids are in possession of books at any given time in the school day. When I come into some classrooms I am met by students who want to tell me what they are reading or ask me if I have a copy of certain books. Sometimes they ask me if I know any books about _______(name your topic or genre).
I love this growing community of readers that is emerging around me. There is an excitement about books and a network of relationships that is building with so little effort. As a bonus, I am getting so many new titles and recommendations to add to my TBR list!
I’ll continue my ‘literary greeting’ and see how my relationships with readers and books evolve in each of the schools I work. I want kids to see me coming and start thinking about books. I want them to realize someone outside classroom might be interested in their reading lives (and real lives). I want them to see reading as a social experience that can connect them to others in meaningful ways.
So if you see me in the hallway be ready to tell me what YOU are reading!
What’s on my book radar?
I picked up and read the recently awarded Newberry Honor Book Paperboy.
It was interesting that I read this at the same time my son and I are reading a Maine Student Book Award nominee-The Lions of Little Rock together
Both books touch on life in a segregated south. Without being preachy or maudlin, both authors depict childrens’ experiences living in a society that found it acceptable to maintain separate classes of people. These children struggle to understand adult social rules (and laws) that treat the people they love and care about (friends, nannies) as ‘less than.’
Since today is the 101st birthday of Rosa Parks I found these choices of books to be excellent ways to celebrate her life and the legacy of her heroic decision to refuse to be ‘less than’.