So Much Sunshine

Today I managed a couple of reading conferences. These happened on an almost daily basis in my physical classroom and have happened almost no times at all in the virtual setting. This morning I was reminded of why I did them so much in the classroom.

One student I really wanted to meet with because I wanted to discuss a book I’d given her. We have been virtual all year and having books at hand is something that is crucial to me so I’ve done porch drop offs at the start of each quarter. Every bag has had 4-6 books, not a lot for 9 weeks of reading, but better than nothing. Over the summer I reached out to some local libraries. Volunteers at two of them met with me, masked and distanced, and allowed me to go through their donations to buy books, since they wouldn’t be hosting book sales any time soon. I filled my trunk with as wide a range of books as I possibly could.

The book in question today, however, was something different. Not too long ago I read Renee Watson’s Ways to Make Sunshine. I absolutely loved it and spent the entire book thinking how much the main character reminded me of one of my current students. So I did something I don’t do too often and I ordered a copy to give her. (Usually I order copies for our classroom library so the kid can read it and then others can too. But our classroom library is still all stored away right now so that isn’t helpful.)

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In their porch drop off bags I included a note to each student with why I picked those books for them. So this kiddo knew this book was a special one. When we chatted today, she told me she’s about 40 pages in. I asked her if she knew why the main character reminded me of her? She said, in a questioning voice, “Because she looks like me?”

I said sure, although I don’t think she looks that much like the pictures of this character. (But I’m going to love sharing Marley Dias’s #1000BlackGirlBooks story with her – and the whole class – next week.) I said, “Have you gotten to see how much she loves to cook?” There was a quick gasp and an, “Oh! Right! Wow.” I said, “And you have an older brother, right?” She started talking about her older brother and the ways he is like the brother in the book. I said, “And she’s always finding the positive in things, just like you.”

We talked some more about this book. My student had lots of thoughts about the frustrations the main character faced in moving to a small house and having an annoying older brother. It was a fun conversation. (It’s always extra fun when I’ve read the book!)

Near the end, my student said, “I really want to read Some Places More Than Others. This sounded familiar to me but I wasn’t making a connection. So she said, “It’s by the same author, Renee Watson. She said, “The girl travels and I want to read about that.”

A used copy has been ordered and will be on its way to this student as soon as possible. I am so glad she now knows Renee Watson’s books and loves them.

The virtual setting is helping me see what I usually do to help my students love reading and books. I’m still trying to figure out how to do some of that in this setting. Slowly getting there.

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