Dan Gemeinhart’s Some Kind of Courage was our first read aloud of the year, the book that I had counted on to bring our roomful of sixth graders together as a community of readers and thinkers and sharers of the spirit of book love – a tall order for any one book. But, this book delivered…and how!
Week after week, we gathered in sweet expectation of hearing more of Joseph’s incredible quest to find the last vestige of his family: his beloved horse, Sarah. Week after week, we admired his courage, worried about the success of his adventures, and celebrated moments of triumph. And week after week, we marveled at the way in which a great story, well told, can be just the best thing ever…especially in a classroom of restless sixth graders beginning to know each other.
Last Thursday, we got to “meet” Dan Gemeinhart via a lunchtime Google Hangout. Such fun! All week long my kiddos spent their lunch recess time working on a thank you poster and brainstorming burning questions to pose. Each day, our excitement grew. A real, live author was going to visit us, right here in room 202!
And then, the day arrived. Before we knew it, there he was on our screen and my kids were beside themselves. This, I thought, as I watched them ask questions and listen carefully to Gemeinhart’s thoughtful answers, is what reading is all about: the investment in story, honoring the story teller.
I celebrate that.
But, there is a back story to this, which I want to celebrate as well. Because this reading journey really began last summer, when my writer’s group (Kimberley Moran, Margaret Simon, and Julieanne Harmatz) read this book together, and planted the seeds for this read aloud. How to make this amazing story come alive for our students in a way that would build a reading community as well as serve as a basis for doing the reading workshop work that forms the foundation of our literacy instruction?
Back and forth we went, through the Summer and into the Fall – sharing our ideas, and figuring out how to move from character traits and development to theme and analysis. It was meaningful work…and such fun, too.
So, I celebrate the power of teacher driven learning communities. We stand shoulder to shoulder in the work we do, and we make each other better in the practice of the work we love to do.