Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Let me paint the picture for you, my students were chomping away on their birthday cookie cake and I was reading aloud from the front of the room. I begin reading about Auggie's first Halloween at Beecher Prep. If you're familiar with this story, you know what part I'm referring to. I won't spoil it for everyone else. As I read about Auggie's heartache, I looked up and realized I had 21 sets of eyes locked on me. Eyes that were wide open with horror, amazement, and empathy.
I closed the book to stop reading for the day - gosh I'm mean - and looked up at my students. All eyes and voices were begging me to continue and I said, "Doesn't that just break your heart?" In unison I heard a sympathetic "yessss!" in reply.... and one, rather loud, "NO." I was a little taken back and I asked the student, "what makes you say no?" He responded simply, "It's fiction. He isn't real."
Being the reader that I am, I wanted to hop on my soapbox and say, "YES HE IS! YOU BE NICE TO AUGGIE! HE DOESN'T DESERVE THIS."
I refrained. Instead, I hopped on another soapbox, one about the power of fiction writing. I told my little naysayer, that yes he was right - it is fiction and Auggie isn't real, but what Palacio has done for us is create a character that is so lifelike and relatable that we can't help but feel emotions for them. Powerful writing holds your attention and makes the characters (real or imagined) feel as if they're sitting in your living room. I asked my students if they've ever thought about the characters while they aren't reading? I asked my students if they've ever put themselves in the characters position? Suddenly, I realized that my little naysayer has sparked a beautiful conversation in my room about the power or storytelling and reading. I shared personal experiences with my students where I, too, had worried and wondered about the fate of characters. I asked a gentleman who is in book three of the Harry Potter series if he thought of Harry and his pals outside of the book and he quickly nodded his head in agreement.
This little incident only lastly about seven minutes, but it was probably the most important and most authentic conversation we had all day. I realized that my students were reading (and listening) because they truly enjoy stories. They aren't reading for the sake of levels or because they have to, they're become life long readers and I wish nothing more for them.