Magic Moments: Best Days and Best, Best Days

How can it be that it wasn't until the very end of the month that I discovered this Kid Lit Blog Hop!? Children's literature is near and dear to my heart, as it is with most elementary classroom teachers. How does kid lit weave its way into the fabric of your classroom?

As a busy class, some days we don't make it over to the reading area after lunch to listen to the current chapter book we're reading.  Some days are just too busy or crazy or crazy busy.  These are not Best, Best Days....they're not even Best Days...honestly, they rarely qualify as "good days."

What exactly is a Best Day?  The best days are when we DO make the time to immerse ourselves in the current book. This is our FAVORITE time of the entire day, just after lunch and recess - snuggled in together in the 12-foot by 14-foot space that is our reading corner, sweaty-head smell permeating the air, making it seem like the outdoor sunshine has latched onto us and hitched a ride indoors...girls finger braiding each other's hair, kids sprawled out, sitting up or lying down, comfy and cozy, all-the-while listening to the marvelous words someone with a penchant for writing has taken the time to polish and shine up, just for us.  

This is truly the best part of the day, often with a bonus deal thrown in when the kids beg to continue with the book when it's time to slip back into the academic activities of our day.  

         "No, just one more chapter!" they cry.
         "Why do you do that? You always stop at the best part!" they moan.
         "One more page?" they beg, knowing the story will again pull us in and we'll read well past a single page.
         "How about a preview paragraph?" they question, knowing full well that I cannot stop after only one paragraph.

And most days, of course I relent.  After all, it is my favorite part of the day, too.  This sharing of rich language and vibrant story lines is part of the very fabric of our classroom.  We're journeying together through the events of the book, discovering and connecting, questioning and wondering. My students can tell when my voice changes and begins to crack during an emotional part, and someone always hops up and grabs a box of Kleenex to pass around.  

True magic happens on those best, best days when we read just "one more" (or two or three more) chapter, and find yet another hidden gem of lingo, some phrase or description that has a unique wording and is therefore worthy of us stopping to note it. 

 On these best, best days, there is a sense of community that grows our family exponentially - expanding to include all of the characters.  Indeed, often we set the current book aside to talk about connections we're making - connections to previous books and characters we've shared, connections to our own lives, and connections to other books the students are reading on their own. Sharing in this way often sparks an interest in a new book or series for a few students, such as when a student commented on a story element in The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson, and another student suggested that she might like The Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West.

Recently we were reading Rob Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt, and we had an exciting moment that took us from tears to cheers (no spoilers here - won't tell you if it was at the beginning, middle, or end of the book) in just a few seconds flat - faster than a speeding bullet!  We were passing around a couple of Kleenex boxes, and a few kids had their faces buried into the soft, colorful reading area rug to hide the raw emotion they were feeling - and BOOM, with my voice still cracking from the tearful part, all of a sudden there was an explosion of joy and relief!

Sharing a book in our classroom is like that, filled with magic moments - wrapping us around its little finger, drawing us in:
  • that magic moment when we are ALL so enthralled with the story that we don't even realize that collective gasp we just heard was made by us (Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt)
  • the many times when you just have to read a line or phrase aloud again, just to have it roll around on your tongue like a sweet candy, because it's simply that beautiful that you can't believe it's actually made up of the plain letters of the same alphabet you've been reading and writing for years - it must be some new alphabet of an intense and unique language (A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd)

  • that special moment when something amazing happens and we launch into a group hug and boisterous cheers automatically (The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin)

  • that AHA moment when some realization finally dawns on us (The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo or The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett)

  • that moment in time when we feel a twinge of sadness that we just finished a book - it feels like when a treasured friend moves away....these are truly best, best days! (Wonder by R.J. Palacio)

Near the end of the year we do a collaborative writing activity where we list all of the books we've shared aloud together, and then narrow it down to our 5-6 favorites.  These titles are written on a big piece of bulletin board paper or a poster board.  Students rotate among the tables and have 3-4 minutes at each table to write what they remember or connections they made, or they suggest a similar book.  It's always incredible to see what they recall or connections they make! This helps me know which read aloud books to keep in the rotation the following year.  It's also a fabulous way to chronicle our life together as readers, to etch in our memories our Best, Best Days!

My advice - always make time for those Best, Best Days - and squeeze in another page or two when you can.  Allow time for the magic moments.  You won't regret it.

Be sure to check out the other KidLit Blog Hop blogs!

Happy reading - make it a best, best day!

Spring = New Beginnings and Fresh Look

Spring brings new beginnings - right?  So this is the perfect time to roll out our new look!  We're so glad you stopped by, and our most fervent hope is that you'll find something to inspire you here.  Since we're rookies along this journey of sharing in such a formal way, we'd love it if you'd take a minute to leave us a comment.  Feel free to stop back again soon as we get posts up in each of the above tabs!