Read In Week 2014

There are several things I’ve taken away from my time as a Library Assistant in the Children’s Library, but the one that I treasure the most is reading stories to children. Even though I had already been reading to my children at home, it wasn’t until I was thrown into my first storytime at Edmonton Public Library that I discovered I had the ability to read to groups of children, but more than that, I really enjoyed it. Fast forward a few years and I have just finished my annual visit to Lorelei School for Read In Week where I had the opportunity to once again read to my children’s classes. Now I have had some great storytimes, some of which had ended in hugs from the children (the other morning, for example); but nothing compares to the feeling I get when I visit my children’s school.

The short list
The short list

The week leading up to Read In Week was punctuated by a countdown of sleeps for Graeme. “How many sleeps for you to read at my school?” I had already made up my mind what I would be reading to Abigail’s grade three class, but I was still deciding on Graeme’s kindergarten class. Then I came across two books that I thought would be perfect, Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won and No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora. It turns out that No Fits, Nilson was quite fitting for the kindergarten class as I walked in during a time out (thankfully, not Graeme). Before I could leave kindergarten I was persuaded to read one more story, and there was no way I could say no to our favourite kindergarten teacher, so I read Jungle Party by Brian Wildsmith. I was also invited to read to the one of the grade one classes (1 of 1). This invitation soon grew to two grade one classes (2 of 1), and by the morning of my visit it was suddenly upped to all three grade one classes (3 of 1) as I happened to run into one of Abigail’s former teachers in the hallway. For the grade ones I had picked out Flight of the Dodo by Peter Brown, which I had done last year, but I really enjoy it, and The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, which went over very well with both students and teachers. I knew from last year that the kids would get a kick out of the “poop factor” in Flight of the Dodo, but I was really happy with the reception that Crayons got. In fact, it lead to one of the teachers possibly using the story as the basis for an art project. As for Abigail and the grade three class, I chose The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman. I was introduced to this book by my coworker who read it to his boys at home. The first time I read it I was hooked; and the first time I read it to my children, it was a hit. However, I felt the need to clear the book with Abigail’s teacher first, as it is a bit of an odd story with illustrations that, while wonderful, could be a bit unsettling to some. With great relief the book was cleared with the expectation that it would generate class discussion afterward, which it ultimately did, to my delight! I used the book to illustrate how some stories give the reader most of the information needed, but there are some stories, like The Wolves in the Walls, that leave information out, and it’s up to the reader to try to figure out the answers. For example, how could the wolves fit in the walls? How did the wolves get in the walls in the first place? I brought up the fact that, even though it is said at one point that Lucy goes inside the walls, it’s never explained how she does it. One student asked if the author had written a sequel to this book. I said no, but that it would be fun for students to write their own sequel. They seemed interested in that idea. During recess I got to hang out with the staff and indulge in their tradition of providing delicious treats for guest readers. I was pleased when one of the teachers mentioned that she looks forward to my visit so she can get ideas for new books. I also was approached by a couple of teachers who were not aware that I was reading today and were disappointed that I wasn’t able to come to their class as well. For someone with little self-confidence, it is encouraging to know that I have a skill that is valued by others. By the end of the morning I was tired, but happy to have shared great stories with the students of Lorelei. More than this, though, I got to see the joy and pride I feel for my children reflected in their faces. Nothing can compare with that!

Read In Week 2014 line up
Read In Week 2014 line up, all courtesy of Edmonton Public Library, of course.

My daughter’s first day of school, in which I discuss my philosophy of education and mention feathered dinosaurs

My daughter starts kindergarten this September! How did I get here? I don’t ask this question out of despair or regret; quite the opposite. I am filled with joy and excitement, and, let’s be honest, more than a little wonderment. I guess the last few years since my daughter was born have been leading up to this point, but it still seems to have taken me by surprise. I remember being in kindergarten myself! How is it that my own daughter is now starting school? Seriously, I don’t mean to be overly dramatic about this, but I really am quite amazed.

I already have confidence that she will do fine in school. Just the other night we were watching a science programme and I couldn’t bring myself to send her to bed because she kept asking, “What do you know about planets? What do you know about the sun? What do know about volcanoes?” et cetera. It was exciting to share what little knowledge I had with her. She would occasionally come back with, “I know a little about volcanoes, just a little.” Just thinking about how much more she has yet to discover makes me feel all giddy inside!

I have yet to figure out how I will deal with certain situations, such as reluctance to do school work, potential problems with other students, potential clashes between us parents and the teachers, and so forth. These things I will deal with when or if they come up. I do know that I don’t want to be one of those parents who’s overbearing when it comes to my child’s education; it would be arrogant for me to assume such a role. I’m not some genius or polymath. There are educators out there who are much more skilled and qualified to teach my daughter about the world around us. While I try to remain current, I know that I am not up to date on many subjects, while others (math) I was never sharp at to begin with. If I were to reserve a role for myself, it would be to teach her, as best as I could, about critical thinking. Not that she has any trouble at present asking questions, and I’ll admit to sometimes showing annoyance at some of them, but I nevertheless wish for her to continue. At the same time, I want her to have the courage to say, “I don’t know,” and understand the importance of doing so. These three words are crucial in expanding knowledge and coming up with new ideas and ways of solving problems. In a world were people are expected to have all the answers, where children are quizzed and evaluated on remembering this or that data to fill in the multiple choice exam, we seem to have forgotten the humbling, and at the same time, empowering experience of honestly responding to a question with, “I don’t know.” Please don’t misunderstand, I am not lauding ignorance by any means. No, I reserve my admiration for honesty and a rational approach to knowledge. However, when seeking knowledge we must admit not only what it is we do not know, but also constantly reexamine what we do know and determine if it still holds up to the evidence. If I were to sum up my philosophy of education it would be with these three phrases: “I don’t know.” “Let’s find out.” “Show your work.” Admit that there are things beyond your current understanding, commit yourself to finding the answers, demonstrate that the answers you have arrived at are rational and can be shared with others.

I found myself thinking back to one of my favourite books when I was in early elementary. It was Dinosaurs and More Dinosaurs by M. Jean Craig. Not long ago I was at my parents’ home looking through it again. Wow! Quite a lot has come to light since it was written. (I found a blog post spotlighting the art from this very book) I can only guess at what my daughter will be learning in school that varies greatly from when I was her age. I am still a bit in awe of the fact that many dinosaur species, more than 20 genera, had feathers, even though this has been proven through fossil evidence over the past 10 years; I have a childhood of naked theropod images to overcome. I am intrigued by the prospect that she will come home with ideas that will challenge me to reexamine my understanding of things; I am looking forward to continuing to learn from my daughter, as she has already taught me so much.

I know, I know! We’re still dealing with kindergarten; let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. There are certain steps that have to be taken. First, we’ll have to make sure the camera is ready for the obligatory First Day of School picture. (mine featured a powder blue leisure suit) Then I’ll get all teary thinking about how my little girl had grown up so quickly. Next comes work, where I’ll most likely spend the whole day thinking about her. Finally, I’ll get to come home and learn all about her first day of school!

My daughter will learn much in the coming years, but I still expect I have many questions asked of me and I will do my best to answer them; but if I can’t, then I will honestly tell her, “I don’t know,” and I will try my best to help her by saying, “Let’s find out.”

Dinosaurs were cool in my day…

… now they’re freakin’ awesome!