Burning Strong

Yesterday was a big day for book releases— a good day for readers everywhere. We were so fortunate to land Jarrett Krosoczka’s Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle, Rosemary Wells’ Yoko Finds Her Way, Tad Hills’ Duck and Goose Go To the Beach, Judith Viorst’s Lulu and the Mysterious Mission, and many more.

Though they were released yesterday, I shared them just today because they don’t get to my apartment until after school is out for the day. Building up to the excitement of the day, I showed the trailers for Peanut Butter and Jellyfish and The Adventures of Beekle to my class. 

“Please tell me you ordered those!” 

“You’re going to get us those books, right Mr. Teut?”

“Of course he is! We can always depend on him to get us the newest books.”

I shared that yes, I had indeed ordered those two well in advance, and that we could share them the next day. Massive cheers erupted in the room.

This morning, the first thing several students did was ask me, “Did you get those books yesterday?” I teased them with the covers. 

Of course, later in the morning, we shared the texts. I didn’t kill the books with questions. We simply enjoyed, relaxed, chatted, and shared our thoughts, making natural connections. 

When I introduce a new text, nearly 100% of the students want it next for independent reading time. If I had 16 copies of the book, they’d be easily devoured. But I only had one, and so the first person drawn got the book for the day. The students understand this procedure by now, but that doesn’t ease up on the disappointment when they aren’t the ones called. 

Someone asked me today if I thought my students were ready for second grade, and if I was ready to let them go (there’s only 27 some odd days of school left this year, you know).

I had to think— By what standards? 

I want to feel at peace when they leave my room- not so much that I’ve filled them up with the knowledge that they need, but that I have equipped them with the skills they need. I want to feel at peace knowing that books are very important pieces of their lives, and they realize and appreciate the privacy a book can bring. That they understand the power of story. That they can’t wait to get their hands on the new releases and are eager to share all the good things they have read.

And so, when I was asked that question, I thought of my students’ responses to the book trailers. To their enthusiasm when I introduced the books, and for the desire to read them again when the opportunity presented itself. I can feel at peace when they leave (though I don’t want to rush that day— we have so many more things to explore and texts to share and 27 days doesn’t seem like enough time to do so). 

Nothing guarantees that they will love books forever, and I can’t force that on any of them. I can only share as many texts as I can, create an environment that sends positive messages about reading, and equip them with skills and encourage habits of lifelong readers. 

For now, the enthusiasm is there. And I feel that as long as they keep reading, as long as they keep talking about books, and as long as they have books at their fingertips, the enthusiasm won’t fade.

Yes, I think that when they leave my room, I will be at peace. They have worked hard. Kept an open mind. They’re ready. Their fire has been sparked. And it’s strongly burning. 

2 thoughts on “Burning Strong

  1. I’m a friend of/author collaborator with Mollie, and started following your blog when she told me about your collaboration with her! I’m also an educator, and I love your philosophy on filling students with skills rather than knowledge. Reading is that fundamental skill, IMHO. From there, everything else flows (well, maybe everything except algebra). Keep teaching, reading, and writing; it sounds like you’re making such an impact on these little people!

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