Read aloud time is one of my absolute favorite parts of the school day in an elementary school classroom. I love the experience of sharing a book together, as a community, over a period of time. Investing together in the characters, worrying about their fates, predicting how they’ll solve their problems, gasping in surprise, and groaning in pain. Shared experiences are critical for a community and reading books together is a powerful one.
Not surprisingly I spend a lot of time thinking about the books we’ll read together over the course of a year. I’m not thinking about picture books at the moment, although I think a lot about those as well. There will be only a handful of books we’ll spend weeks on, though, so I feel a lot of pressure to choose them carefully. There are so many things I want these books to be and do for us.
Yesterday I finished a book that I think will be on my list for later in the school year. It’s a challenging read for various reasons and will be a better fit for third graders, I think, in the spring.
The book is told from Jesse’s point of view (the girl on the cover there). She is not neurotypical. As a result, she’s not a typical narrator and that makes the book a bit more challenging to read. In addition, the story is not told chronologically. Every chapter title tells when that piece is taking place, all in reference to the day of the ‘apocalypse’ referenced in the title. The chronology of the story took me a bit to grasp (longer than it should have, to be honest, which is on me).
These are things I will have to think about how to support when I read this book to my students.
I’m struggling with thinking about read alouds for this year because I will be in a new school. Not only do I not yet know this year’s kiddos, I also don’t know the community. I have no history with which to think through book choices.
That said, Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse feels like a good choice because Jesse feels like a character I want my new students to know. My new school has, if I am understanding correctly, a higher than average number of neurodivergent students. Jesse could serve as a mirror for them and as a window for their peers. In addition, Jesse’s mother is deployed to Iraq and my new school is on an army post so all of my students will be in military families.
Plus, Jesse and her new friend, Springer, are fun characters who are facing bullying, family challenges, and navigating a new friendship – all things kids face. I’m really looking forward to the shared experience of reading this book, getting to know Jesse and Springer, and being a part of their challenges and joys.