Meet Jennie @ A Teacher’s Reflections
Thank you, Esmé, for having me as a guest on your wonderful blog. First, let me introduce myself. I am Jennie, a long time preschool teacher, 30+ years is definitely a long time, and… well, that’s what I want to talk about.
My first day of teaching was filled with fear (of course). My co-teacher had a plan, I was to read books to the children every day. I had not been read to as a child, except for The Five Chinese Brothers from my grandmother. This was the one and only book, and to this day I remember it vividly. That first day my co-teacher handed me Swimmy by Leo Lionni. It was magical for me, and for the children. It was a taste of something I knew I had to have. And, I couldn’t get enough.
I consumed children’s books over the next few decades. The more I read aloud, the more children wanted to hear stories, and be read to. I had plenty of books in the classroom for children to touch, feel, hold, and turn the pages. Questions and interest exploded. I was the yeast in the dough, or perhaps the children were the yeast. I kept a dictionary nearby to look up new words. That was fun!
I became picky about books. I just couldn’t bear reading aloud poor literature. Thank goodness, as outstanding books are a golden key to open the mind, and spark so many questions. I pushed the button, opened the envelope. All I had to do was stop. Give a worried look. Say , “Oh, dear.” Forty minutes later we would be discussing how Rapunzel’s tower was built, or if it was fair that Jack’s mother threw the magic beans out the window.
I was doing more than reading. I was throwing out a lifeline, a learning line, and it worked.
Conversations spilled over into lunchtime. One day I spontaneously told a story that happened in my childhood, about The Peanut Man who came to school once a year. Then I told another story about being afraid of bats, then another one about a raccoon in my house… and so on. They became “Jennie Stories”, and were begged for every day.
Lightbulb moment – I didn’t always need books with pictures. Storytelling allowed the children to “make the pictures in their head”. Oh, they did! I decided to read aloud a chapter book, just before rest time. Charlotte’s Web instantly became a favorite. Children listened, remembered, asked questions. They were part of the story. Chapter reading was not something that preschool teachers did. Well, I did because I had gone from picture books to storytelling, and the children couldn’t get enough. How wonderful!
The day that Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, visited my classroom to see the teacher that reads aloud, and reads chapter books to preschoolers, was terrific. His book was my “parent handbook” when my kids were little. And now I am part of his latest (and last) edition.
Listen to children. Pay attention to them, and to what they like. Read, read, read. It makes the biggest difference. Children that I taught ages ago return to school and tell me so.
Please visit our wonderful Guest Blogger, Jennie @ A Teacher’s Reflections to read more about all her teaching preschoolers for over thirty years.