Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – How Reading-Aloud Made Me the Teacher and Person I Am Today by Jennie Fitzkee

Delighted to share another wonderful post from pre-school teacher Jennie Fitzkee. This week the joys and benefits of reading aloud for both child and teacher…or parent.

How Reading-Aloud Made Me the Teacher and Person I Am Today by Jennie Fitzkee

My very first day of teaching preschool in Massachusetts, thirty-two years ago, was both career and life altering. Lindy, my co-teacher, asked me to read the picture books to children each day after our Morning Meeting. Sure (gulp)! I was new, scared, and unfamiliar with many children’s books. I had not been read to as a child, except for The Five Chinese Brothers from my grandmother. I still remember the page that opens sideways, with the brother who could stretch his legs. One book, and to this day I remember it vividly.

The book I read to the children on that first day of school was Swimmy, by Leo Lionni. It was magical for me, and for the children. The story line, the art, the engineering, the words… it was a taste of something I knew I had to have. And, I couldn’t get enough.

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The next few decades I consumed children’s books. I realized that the more I read aloud, the more the children wanted to hear stories and be read to. I displayed books in my classroom front-facing, so children were drawn to picking up and ‘reading’ the books. In this way, the children wanted to handle, hold, and turn the pages of books. This was a big deal! It was true hands-on learning, with exploding questions and interest. I was the yeast in the dough, or perhaps the books were the yeast. Oh, our Morning Meetings grew. We had to include a children’s dictionary on the bookshelf so we could look up words that were new. That was fun!

By this time I had become picky about good books. Whenever I read a good book, it sparked so many questions and conversations, that sometimes it took ‘forever’ to get through the book. The first time I read Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky, it took forty minutes to finish reading the book. I started with the inside cover, a picture of the courtyard, and simply asked questions; “Where is this?” “Does this look like Massachusetts?” “What is different?”

Reading picture books triggered big discussions. I often stopped to ask questions. Sometimes I would simply say, “Oh, dear…” in mid-sentence and let the children grab onto that rope. Yes, I was throwing out a lifeline, a learning line, and it worked. It was exciting, always engaging.

Before long, I started reading chapter books before rest time. This was unconventional for preschoolers, yet it felt right because children were on their nap mats and needed to hear stories without seeing pictures. I started with Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, and have never looked back. The first thing children learned was ‘you make the pictures in your head’. This is thrilling, because we now have non-stop reading and multiple discussions, without pictures. Thirty minutes of pretty intense reading-aloud. My chapter books include the best of the best.

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My teaching had become language based and child centered. Often there were ‘moments’, things that happened because we were reading all the time. Reading had spilled over into my curriculum. The day we had set up a restaurant in housekeeping, children were ‘reading’ menus and ‘writing’ orders on clipboards. I was spelling out the words to one child and listening to questions about the menu from another child. I doubt these moments would have happened had I not read so often in the classroom.

I wanted to tell families what happened, about moments of learning, and of course about reading-aloud. So, I started to write more information in my newsletters, and include details. I wrote, and I wrote, sharing small moments and relating those moments to the big picture in education.

I attended a teacher seminar, and Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, was the keynote speaker. As he spoke I wanted to jump up and rush over to the hundreds of teachers in the room, screaming, “Are you listening to this man?” “Do you realize how important his message is?” Instead I wrote him a letter and included one of my newsletters to families that spoke about the importance of reading-aloud. That sparked his interest in my chapter reading, and he visited my classroom to watch. I’m included in the latest version of his million copy bestselling book.

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My public library asked me to direct a library reading group for second and third graders. This was another new adventure in reading. I read The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes, among many wonderful books. Again, these were new books to me, and I loved it. This past summer I embraced YA books, thanks to reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I read every Kate DiCamillo book I could lay my hands on. Every one.

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My reading and reading-aloud continues to grow. Thank you Read-Aloud West Virginia for getting the message of how important reading is to the public. We are making a difference.

Jennie

©Jennie Fitzkee 2014

About Jennie Fitzkee

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what I write about.

I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.

Connect to Jennie

Blog: https://jenniefitzkee.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennie.fitzkee

If you are interested in joining Jennie and the other writers who are sharing posts from their archives….. here is the link: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/happy-new-year-and-the-start-of-the-2018-series-of-smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives/

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65 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – How Reading-Aloud Made Me the Teacher and Person I Am Today by Jennie Fitzkee

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – How Reading-Aloud Made Me the Teacher and Person I Am Today by Jennie Fitzkee — Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life – wandasncredible

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – How Reading-Aloud Made Me the Teacher and Person I Am Today by Jennie Fitzkee | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  3. Jennie’s genuine love of children, education, and books never fails to come across in her delightful posts. I am not alone in wishing that I could have had a teacher like her, when I was that young.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. What a terrific testimony to the power of reading aloud! Now I am curious about how our brains learn to “see” pictures in our heads… My mom in particular read to us at bed time. Now I have something else to thank her for! Thank YOU for posting this inspiring story and thank JENNIE for living it!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A fabulous post. If every child had a teacher like Jennie what a wonderful world this would be. Her devotion to her job and her ability to connect with the children through books is phenomenal!! And I would have never guessed she had not been read to as a child herself. xo

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Swimmy and Frederick are big favorites of mine! Dr Doolittle not because one of the Dr Doolittle books is so racist. I wonder if they have cut out those parts. Thanks for being so enthusiastic and inspiring, Jennie!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Luanne. They cut out the word ‘black’ ages ago. I opted to read the original to my library book group this year. Not only did they love the book, it opened the door to talk about racism. Win-win. So glad you like Swimmy!

      Liked by 2 people

      • In the one with the “Black Prince”? Because the worst problem was the girl’s response to him. Pretty horrifying. I admit I haven’t read the series. But that book traumatized my non-white son very much as it was presented in the classroom with no discussion of the racism.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I did a lot of research and made a presentation to the school about how to choose better books than the one they were using (it was not the Dr. Doolittle that is usually read–they are a series, and it was a really bad one–no way to fix it)–and how to have a discussion with children about racism. The school opted to get rid of the book, but wouldn’t engage with my presentation as they didn’t want to appear to be caving. But I am not a book banner. In fact, that is the whole point of teaching how to choose the best books (I taught college adolescent lit and children’s lit so it was part of the curriculum) is, in part, a response to requests to ban books. You have to be able to support your book choices in the public school system (in California and other U.S. states).

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Luanne, you’re remembering a different book! There isn’t a girl In The Story of Doctor Dolittle. Even so, shame on a teacher who doesn’t know her audience and reads something — racist, or scary, or upsetting — without stopping to talk about it. If I read about a monster, I stop to talk about real or pretend. If I read about something racist, I stop to talk about right and wrong. I’m so sorry your son was traumatized. The power of reading aloud can never be underestimated.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Music, Food and Spring Bulbs with Guests and Humour. | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  9. Pingback: How Reading Aloud Made Me the Teacher I Am | Success Inspirers World

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