Daily Archives: October 5, 2006

Reading Aloud Framed

Dear Framed,

I’m going to be blunt here. The two of us, it just isn’t working. I’m really sorry, but the other day, I had to put you down. I told the kids I was taking a break, but I suspect it is a permanent one. Sorry.

I really tried to make it work. When I first heard about you I was so excited. Not wanting to wait until I could get you in the US, I ordered you right away from the UK. The day you arrived I dropped everything and dived in. First impressions were NOT good. I mean, you were pleasant, entertaining, but not…here it comes….as good as your big brother, Millions.

So there it is. I’m probably going to scar you for life, but I can’t help it. I mean, I mainly rushed to get you because of your big brother. I adore Millions and read it aloud the last two years with great success. There is just something in Damian’s voice that makes Millions so very special. The situation, the language (such as Damian’s hermitage), the sadness underlying the day-to-day humor (not cloying or overly sentimental), the saints, Anthony’s playground economy, the father, the Mormons, and so much more. The book is an absolute gem and a fantastic read aloud.

If you need me to pay for therapy as the result of your reading this letter, I understand and will do so gladly. I mean, what could be more traumatic than learning for real that people like your big brother best? (By the way, could please not tell your dad, Frank Cottrell Boyce about our break-up? I’m sure he wouldn’t be any happier than Mrs. Smother’s would have been when her son Tommy went on about her always liking his brother best .)

I have given you three chances and that is enough, I think. The first reading felt leadened, but after I read several glowing reviews I tried again. No luck. The magic simply wasn’t there. Then someone else I admire said she liked you better than your big brother. School was about to start and so I thought, “Hmmm….maybe reading it aloud is the answer. Maybe that is all I need to fall in love with it.”

And so I started reading you aloud a few weeks back to my 4th graders. At first it was interesting. Not only did I have to be sure they were clear on the Mutant Ninja Turtles, but on the real artists (Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo) as well. And then all the Britishisms — I moved back and forth between using the British term and checking to be sure the kids knew what it was and sometimes just instantly translating it into an American term. Words like boot, petrol, caravan, quid, and a bunch more. But that wasn’t the problem; it wasn’t when I read aloud your brother, after all. Sorry.

And so, I quit. Page 95 if you must know. I didn’t realize I’d quit at first. But when I started to think about reading it again I just couldn’t. I kept looking at your size and thinking, “I’m going to be reading that for months!” (I generally never read aloud a book over 200 pages and you are 312 — what was I thinking?) Not only that, but I realized it had been a big mistake to start the year with an untested book. That is, one I didn’t know for sure would be a surefire hit with an unknown group of kids. I realized that some of the squirrelly behavior by some of my boys was because they weren’t riveted. I’m hurting your feelings again, I know, but to start the year I need a book that engages 100% every child. You did not. I caught one girl reading another book behind her desk — clearly you were doing nothing for her and several boys were spending much of the time making faces at each other. Nope, I just couldn’t do it for several hundred more pages. No way.

So, there it is. Clearly you are beloved by so many that my abandonment will hardly register. And I’m sure some of my students will want to finish you on their own.

I must admit I hate giving up on a read aloud, but I do encourage my students not to stick with books they don’t like and while you were a perfectly entertaining (if not for me amazing) private read, you just weren’t working as a read aloud for me.

Let’s stay friends. Have lunch. I’ll call soon, I promise.

All the best,

Monica

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