What the Kids Are Reading

After two days of subbing I’m exhausted but happy.

Yes, you read that right. The school called me yesterday morning and asked me to fill in for my daughter’s class so I ended up teaching both my children two days in a row! Fortunately, both of them were excited to have me in their classrooms. The sight of Jasmine jumping up and down with joy when she saw me at the teacher’s desk will keep me smiling for days πŸ™‚

My son’s 5th grade class is currently reading Heartbeat by Sharon Creech and wouldn’t you know — the book is in verse! It’s a great addition to my reading list for Caroline’s Novel Challenge. I borrowed an extra copy from the teacher and I’m about halfway through.

It’s interesting to hear 10- and 11-year-olds reflect on the story. What I see as simple, spare, beautiful language, they see as simplistic, literal and sometimes strange. They were quick to point out metaphors, personification and rhyme but were surprised when I suggested that some passages might mean more than they thought. Yes, the main character likes to run, but maybe she’s also trying to run away from things that she really can’t escape. And while scenes with the forgetful grandfather are funny, I tried to show them the undercurrent of sadness that comes from watching someone slip away before your eyes.

In my daughter’s 2nd grade class, they are reading How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell, one of my favorite books for younger kids. After the 2nd graders wrote a summary paragraph, they drew pictures to illustrate the chapter we’d read together. What a riot! But figuring out the point of the chapter was a challenge for some kids.

Being in the classroom was a good reminder for me that it’s so important to look at your writing through the eyes of a child. Phrases you think they’ll understand can confuse them. Context doesn’t always clarify the meaning of a word, especially when the words are being read out loud by an expressionless beginning reader. While a teacher or parent might be there to help them understand what they’re reading, what happens when they read alone? Will your words make them want to read more, or will they put down the book in frustration?

There’s a chance I might sub for the first grade teacher who is on call for jury duty this week. I’m almost hoping I get the call. Kids have so much energy. I love their curiosity and enthusiasm. And being a sub is almost like being a grandparent: you go in and have fun with the kids and they’re on good behavior because it’s a welcome change from the every day. But if I don’t, I’ll have plenty to keep me busy. I’m a bit behind on my page count

30 thoughts on “What the Kids Are Reading

  1. I am impressed that the fifth grade teacher is using the book in verse with the class! I'm glad you are having fun subbing!
    I even try out my poetry or picture book manuscripts on classes, too, to get their reactions. To see what works and what doesn't. They love it, and I get direct feedback from kids that aren't my own! πŸ™‚

  2. I haven't read Heartbeat. Add it to the list!

    How to Eat Fried Worms . . . GREAT Book! Good reminder about seeing books through kids eyes. So easy to forget that.

    You almost make me miss substitute teaching. πŸ™‚

  3. I just found you through Shannon's blog. It's a little scary because:

    1) I sub
    2) I write
    3) I have subbed my kids classes
    4) My kids are in the 5th and second grades

    I'm going to have to follow you now.

  4. My daughter is in 2nd grade and I'm looking for some fun summer reading books for her. I'll keep the second one in mind πŸ™‚ Thanks!

  5. How very cool to sub for your kids! I'm impressed with the class book choices.

    And I wish I had flies on the walls of classrooms to know if I am writing those sentences that my target age can understand. There's such a spectrum of reading comphrension that it's a difficult skill for me to learn.

    Good luck on word count catch up!

  6. It was funny and sometimes shocking to hear the kids I talked to when I had my book store. Their ideas of the classics they'd just read made me feel as if they had gotten them from a Bizzaro world library!

    We write. But what do our readers think we've written? Roland

  7. You sound like you were born to teach! Great reminder to see things through the kids' eyes. I read two alternate book openings to fourth and fifth graders this a.m., and they totally got one, but not the other. Good thing that writer revised.

  8. Such an interesting post. Reading with the kids and discussing books from their perspective has to be really insightful. All of this, I'm sure, will help you as you write. What a great opportunity for you!

  9. That's so great that they're reading a book in verse! And woah, 'How to eat fried worms'- I had COMPLETELY forgotten about that one. And I know I read it but it but I was probably the same age as your daughter…

  10. Caroline: A kid's perspective is SO different from an adult!

    Kelly: I was impressed that she had them reading this book, too. I'll have to try one of mine in class sometime πŸ™‚

    Tricia: Reading with the class was fun, and eye-opening as a writer.

    PJ: My son loved the Harry Potter books. They're kind of the standard by which everything else is judged for him!

    Stina: I never expected to enjoy subbing as much as I did πŸ™‚

    Janet: I'm enjoying Heartbeat, even more since I can talk about it with my son.

    Shannon: Thanks! I'll zip over there!

    Theresa: Wow — maybe you're my long lost sister!! Nice to meet you!

    Cindy: HTEFW is great for 2nd graders. Hope she enjoys it!

    Jackee: I'd love to be a fly on the wall at school, too! The reading comprehension is hard to gauge unless you're around it. I'm so glad to be getting that exposure!

    Roland: I like that — the Bizzaro world library. I know quite a few kids and adults who read there πŸ˜€

    Lois: Yes, their honest opinions are invaluable.

    Lori: Ha! Just a few years ago I would have been terrified in the front of a classroom!

    Beth: Kids inspire me. They're so much fun to be around πŸ˜€

    Tara: Subbing has definitely been a win/win!

    Elana: Definitely add it to the list. It's a good one.

    Candy: I don't think I would have wanted to have my mom teaching me either!

    Riv: I'm enjoying it so far.

    Katie: Our family actually listened to Fried Worms on tape during a road trip and loved it. It's one of those stories with something for everyone.

    Vivian: Nice to see you again πŸ™‚

  11. Heartbeat sounds soooo good! A lot of kids who don't like to read will read books in verse because the text on the page does not look overwhelming.

    Love That Dog is a big fave at our school.


  12. I remember How to Eat Fried Worms! OK not actually eat them but the book, you get it right? πŸ˜‰ Now, I'm really interested in Heartbeat. I've been looking to track down a book in verse and you've done all the leg work for me, so thanx! Have a great weekend!!!

  13. Carolyn: The librarian came and told me that the kids were really excited to have me there. I'm SO glad because I remember not liking subs as a kid!

    Shelley: I've heard good things about Love That Dog. Guess I'll have to read that one too πŸ™‚

    T.Anne: I've thought about cooking some up for my kids, maybe in cornmeal like they do in the book πŸ™‚ Glad I could help you find a book in verse!

    Laura: Fried Worms is one of those books that appeals to everyone.

    Cindy: Yes, I'm glad to be getting their perspectives.

  14. That's great! It sounds like you have a great group of kids. I've been scarred by subbing when I used to teach. During our free period, we used to have to cover other teachers' classes because there was a sub-shortage. But your stories make me feel like I need to give it another chance!

  15. That's awesome! How fun that you got to spend time with your kids AND get the inside scoop on their reading.

    Going to go read How to Eat Fried Worms now. Haven't read it in forever!

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