I remember sitting in my fourth grade class on the first day of school, impatiently sitting through the usual barrage of instructions, explanations, and routines. I lifted the heavy lid of my desk and put my math textbook away. That could wait until I had to deal with it. The social studies book came next, placed in a neat pile on top of my Trapper Keeper. I waited with anticipation for the last book to be passed out…the reading books. A nice big, thick book full of parts of stories and chapters, waiting to be read. As soon as it landed in my hands I opened it, flipping through the pages…only to be halted by my teacher’s voice nearby.
“Wait! Now, don’t read ahead! We will read those stories together this year.”
Disappointed and more than a little frustrated, I put the book inside my desk and got back to the business of listening to instructions. However, I was hatching a plan–to get that book into my backpack when no one was looking and get it home for the night.
The plan worked and I gleefully read the book cover to cover.
That was the beginning of a very long year of reading lessons over stories that I had since moved beyond.
I was in fourth grade in the year 1981, and the big thick book in my desk was a basal reader.
I am adding a picture of it because I still have it. At the end of fourth grade the curriculum changed and we were allowed to keep our books. It might sound crazy that I kept it all this time, but subconsciously I have a feeling it was because I never wanted those kinds of limits to be put on my reading again.
Tomorrow, in the year 2017, I get to teach my students that readers read and love all different kinds of books. I will sit alongside them and celebrate their accomplishments and help them set goals for their next steps. I will guide them through tricky words and subtle twists and turns in the plots of the books they have chosen. I will point them towards the next books they might want to read, and cheer them on as they work through a new series.
It is a precious gift to teach this to my students, and one that I don’t ever take for granted.
And the words “Don’t read ahead…” are not going to exist in a classroom like this. I promise.