Sunday, October 30, 2011

First grade field trip!

On Saturday, I volunteered as a chaperone for my partner's after-school program's weekend field trip to the local library. The instructors, students, and parents were to meet up at the school and then walk over together -- maybe a 20-minute walk. Unfortunately, though 12 students (out of 19) in my partner's class turned in signed permission slips for the field trip, only 2 actually turned up. (And they were mistaken about the time, arrived an hour early, and then met us at the library -- so we didn't know that they were coming until the end of the walk!) The program's site supervisor had estimated that 30 students would be involved... and we ended up with 3. Added to the 2 who met us at the library and someone's little sister (not in the program), that made a total of only 6 children, which was very disappointing.

The children's librarian gave our group a brief tour of the stacks in the children's section. She had pulled a selection of books appropriate for pre-readers, first-, and second-graders, which the students perused after storytime. The librarian read two stories: Beto and the Bone Dance and The Little Old
Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything
. Beto was the story of a little boy who celebrates Dia de los Muertos with his family in Mexico; the librarian explained briefly about the holiday and its traditions during the reading. The second story was an interactive one: children and adults both joined in with the sounds of the scary objects that confront the little old lady: boots that go clomp, clomp, hands that go clap, clap, and so forth. Storytime was enjoyable even with so few children. Afterward, parents and instructors helped the students find two books apiece, and then they checked them out using their new library cards. (The library had requested a list of the students' names beforehand, and issued cards for any student that wasn't yet in the system. Kindergarteners have their cards kept behind the desk by default, but can request to take them home. First- and second-graders are given their cards on a string to wear around their necks, and need to remember to bring them along when they visit the library.) I filled out my own application for a card in this district and checked out two children's books in Spanish to practice my language comprehension.

While children were checking out books and heading outside for snack, I chatted with the children's librarian, who said she'd been in her position for 15 years. Hearing that I was a library student, she warmed to her topic. She was discouraged by recent budget cuts, and concerned about a strange trend in management. Apparently, newly-hired children's librarians have been assigned branch manager duties as well in this district. Either focus would be sufficient for a full-time position, even for a seasoned librarian, but trying to juggle both seems like a tough situation to be in! She hoped that the public library would be sufficiently funded to hire new graduates in a few years. (So do I!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Substitute reader: 2nd grade

This past Read Aloud, I visited the school to pass out books and meet this year's crop of reader volunteers (there were a few new ones, but many have been doing this for years). As it happened, our predicted photo opportunity was co-opted by an earthquake drill, so I may have to join them another time for that purpose.

As it also happened, one of the volunteers had forgotten the appointment, and I was engaged as a substitute for his class (it was only the second Read Aloud of the school year, so I don't think the kids much registered the change). With about 30 seconds of prep (and aren't I glad that *I* was the one who'd read all the books beforehand?), I was propelled to a second-grade classroom across the hall and introduced to the class by the principal.

We read In Our Mothers' House, by Patricia Polacco, which is about a Berkeley family with two moms and three children. The story is narrated by the eldest child, and the first question a student had was, "Why is the baby black?" (We established that the baby was born that way, and the baby was a different color than the mothers because she was adopted.)

The main conflict in the book is that, although the family is very popular with most of their neighbors (holding block parties and the like), one neighbor is disapproving and tries to spoil their fun. At one juncture, she hisses at the mothers, "I don't appreciate what you are." However, just "what they are" is not explicitly addressed by the author, and I think the specific point about homosexuality or non-traditional families may have passed by the kids. I stopped the book at that point and asked the kids what they thought she meant, and got a variety of answers like "She doesn't like that they are happy," and "It looks like she isn't having fun, so maybe she is mad about being lonely". Although many families in the school have two moms or two dads (it's in a historically gay neighborhood), I'm not sure that difference would come to mind unless a child had recently been through a similar experience of discrimination.

The book, I realized in the reading, was awfully wordy for the available time. I don't know how long the volunteers usually have, but we had about 20 minutes before the earthquake drill, which was just enough time to conclude with a few generic questions (most of the children wanted to tell me what they were going to be for Halloween -- a holiday mentioned in the story). Polacco's watercolors, though, are always lovely. After we finished, the teacher mentioned that she had been planning already on getting the book for the class -- so I guess it was a good choice!

I very much enjoyed my impromptu Read Aloud! I look forward to doing more of that sort of thing in my graduate classes and internships. My partner's first-graders are going on a library field trip Saturday, and I'll get to join them and help her out. I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Read Aloud Roundup: October 2011

William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow
- Why did William’s brother make fun of him? How do you think William felt?
- Why do you think William’s dad didn’t want to get him a doll?
- What are some games and toys that both boys and girls can play with?

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
- What’s your favorite animal at the zoo? Do you know how it makes a family?
- How do penguins take care of their eggs differently than other birds?
- What are some of the different ways that humans make families?