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Read With Us… It’s Magic!

September 6, 2010
Today’s ACT Guest Blog post was written by Leslee M. Milch, a National Board Certified Teacher – with a very large kindergarten class (though in this piece she describes work with first-grade classes).  In addition to teaching, Leslee does some work the Orange County Department of Education, and California State University at Fullerton.  She is a support provider for National Board Certification candidates, and also helps train other support providers.

READ WITH US . . . IT’S MAGIC !

Let me extend this invitation to enjoy the sights and sounds in my classroom . . .

A buzz can be heard in the classroom, an exciting mix of children and adult voices, rustling pages, and classical music playing softly in the background.  Children may be cuddled up with teddy bears, propped up on pillows or quietly sitting alone, engrossed in a world full of imagination, knowledge and adventure.  Many children may be huddled together with moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters, little brothers and sisters too.  Other children may be sitting with one of our special guests joining us, such as principals, school board members and superintendents, public librarians, local beauty queens, women’s club members or other community members.

These are the sights and sounds each Wednesday morning when I open our  classroom door early, as I have done for the past ten years, inviting the children and  our guests to come in and READ WITH US . . . IT’S MAGIC!

Books in English and Spanish, hundreds of books are readily accessible; many are well-loved and worn.  Student-made books, fiction and non-fiction books, newspapers, magazines, catalogues, posters, labels and signs are everywhere in our print-rich first-grade classroom.

The magic, the benefits of this program, have been multifaceted, as a sense of community spirit, involvement and responsibility for my children’s literacy development evolves, that extends beyond our classroom.  Community members who join us witness firsthand the challenges and rewards of working with my classroom of mostly limited English speakers.   Principals, superintendents and school board members have a better understanding of the teaching and learning that occurs daily in our classroom.  And, of course the children love the attention from our guest readers.  In the economically depressed area where I teach, many of my students live in multi-family homes and apartments where one-on-one attention, especially being read to, is a rare and special treat.

Sadly, for too many of my children, literacy is not a part of their world at home.  Due to limited resources, most families have very few books in their homes, and no means of transportation to visit local libraries.  And unfortunately, it is not uncommon for my children to come from families where one or sometimes both parents are illiterate in English and their native language.  For these reasons, this makes the magic even more exciting as the children and their family members are able to spend quality time together engaged in any one of many literacy activities.  For those parents who can’t read with their children, it is heartwarming to watch them take picture walks through books, to see them listening to their children read, and engaging in conversations about books and stories.  Parents who can read to their children are excited to have a plethora of books accessible for them to enjoy with their child.  The children are delighted to have their families joining us!  As the teacher, it is exciting for me to observe the bonds between parent and child, and most importantly offer individualized support to parents, so they can help their child at home with literacy development.

Since the majority of the children in the area are unable to attend pre-school, younger siblings who come along and join us reap the rewards too, as their early literacy development begins.  Once they begin attending school they come more comfortable with the learning environment of the classroom, and they develop an early love of books and reading, from being a part of the reading magic that illuminates our classroom!

It is my belief that this reading program has fostered a love of literacy within each and every one of my children, and that this will contribute significantly to my students growing into literate adults who are life long learners, and will become successful, happy adults, leaders who will affect our world and all our lives, in positive ways.

Back to the magic in the classroom . . .

A feeling of warmth and community fills the room as our Wednesday morning reading program begins.  For the next hour, it is an exciting, yet tranquil time, and one of many reasons why I tell my children, that hearing them read is . . .  “music to my ears!”

READ WITH US . . . IT’S MAGIC !

One Comment leave one →
  1. Carol Mikoda permalink
    September 6, 2010 3:25 am

    Keep it up Leslee, no matter what happens to school budgets, reorganizations, etc. Let all that just roll around outside the classroom and let learning and love of learning and stories continue to fill those Wednesday mornings. The positive side effects of time spent that way are immeasurable, unbounded; nevertheless, no one can cancel them out. The children whose literacy lives you touch each Wednesday will someday be able to reach back to these times to help them with myriad problems we can’t forsee when they are just kindergarteners. You may or may not hear from them about the positive effects, it’s true; as adults, they may never circle back to you. We must all still do these things that we know are good, despite the fact that we cannot count or measure the changes they bring about in learners of all ages.

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