It’s Wonder-ful (yes I went there)

I’m reading R. J. Palacio’s book, Wonder, to my 3rd graders right now. There is so much I want to say about this (not just this read aloud but others recently and about books we’re reading in general). For the moment though, I’m struck by a recent conversation I had with a colleague.

She noticed that many of my students have copies of Wonder in their book boxes. At least one owns his own copy (actually, I think he owns two copies as he got one for Christmas and then recently saw the one with the cover from the movie poster and convinced his folks to get him that one too – he wasn’t a reader before this year so I think they’re more willing to do this than most would be). Others have checked copies out from the school library. As we sit on the carpet, reading together, they are reading along. Other friends are leaning over their shoulders, joining them.

My colleague remarked that I’m really nice to allow them to do this. She said many teachers wouldn’t allow students to be reading the same book the teacher is reading aloud. The fear being, I guess, that the students would read ahead and possibly would give something away.

I realized I used to be that teacher. I’m not sure I ever explicitly told students not to read a book I was reading, but I certainly don’t remember a time when students actually did read a book I was reading. I can remember thinking I didn’t want students to read ahead. I wanted to control the reading.

I’m not that teacher any more for several reasons.

  1. I don’t need to control anywhere near as much as I used to. Across the board.
  2. I don’t want to do anything that will squash a student’s love of or excitement for reading.
  3. I don’t worry about a book being ‘spoiled’. The joy of the book is in the shared experience of it, the discussions about it, the gasps and laughter and tears as we read it. Even if students have read ahead and even if they’ve told others about it, we’ll still have that shared experience, discussions, and reactions.

The teacher I am now is thrilled to look out at my students and see multiple copies of the book in their hands.

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