Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Flashbacks - Familiar Books

When I initially planned the idea of Friday Flashbacks, I had high school and college memories on the brain. I'm about a month away from the big 3-0, so this year has been filled with thoughts of my formative years. Maybe once the big day arrives I'll be ready to pull my brain out of the past and get to dreaming out the future again (usually I'm a planner and a goal-setter, so this year has felt a bit quirky).

I digress . . .

Thursday my son came home from preschool with the phonics reader "Sam & Al". I nearly fell over when I saw the book. It was the FIRST book I read when I was in Montessori School . . . that's right, do the math - about 27 years ago! So when we got home, there we sat together on the couch as he read it to me. I couldn't help but get a little teary-eyed - with pride for my son as his reading skills blossom, and with sentimentality as I think back to those exciting first days when I learned to read. Talk about a flashback!

Though I do enjoy reading the Magic Tree House series to Mr. Music, after 28 books since mid-July, I did insist on taking a break from them. We'll get back to them soon enough, but I just needed to have our conversations be about someone OTHER than Jack or Annie from those books!

I'm mentoring a high school senior for her Senior Project (a learning experience now required for graduation). She's writing a children's book - good pairing, eh? When we met a few weeks ago I suggested that she spend a bit of time revisiting children's literature so she could get a good idea of how authors develop characters and keep stories flowing. Good writers are avid readers, and while I know she has some great ideas to incorporate into her story, I'm sure early chapter books aren't what she has been reading as of late. So, together we sat at the library and picked out some top notch kids' books to refresh her memory - books by greats such as Beverly Cleary and Andrew Clements made the stack.

In our exploration I stumbled across The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Ralph S. Mouse, two books I vividly recall my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Jennings, reading aloud to my class. I can still hear her voice making the motorcycle sounds as Ralph figured out how to make the motorcycle run in The Mouse and the Motorcycle. I couldn't let my mentee have all the fun - I made sure she got what she needed and then checked out the mouse books by Beverly Cleary books to read to Mr. Music.

He LOVES them. We're about 7 chapters in (started it on Monday) and he begs me to read past his bedtime every night so he can see what happens next. I have a hard time saying "We'll read more tomorrow" because I'm right there with him, enjoying the adventure of the little mouse. And, there's Mrs. Jennings' voice in my head as I read it - I think I'm even starting to use her intonations as I read. Funny how we don't realize what an impression a person has on us until many years later . . . after doing a quick calculation, I realize I first met Mr. Ralph S. Mouse via Mrs. Jennings 21 years ago.

I'm also realizing that Mrs. Jennings' selection of books to share with my class was very influential for what I read to my own class of fourth graders (who are now seniors - yikes!). Her choice of literature was outstanding and not always mainstream. I don't recall too much more of that year, but I did walk away with a great appreciation for books and a strong skill set for reading books aloud so they come alive.

So, kind readers, I leave you with these two questions: Which of your teachers had the greatest passion for books? What book is most memorable from your early years?

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