Monday, May 19, 2014

My Book as a Read Aloud? GASP!

If I am to be completely honest, I was a bit terrified to begin I AM DRUMS as a read aloud. My students were excited, to be sure, and I had the permission of my editor, my principal, and the district office. So why exactly was I so apprehensive about sharing a huge accomplishment with my kids? I'm supposed to be setting an example for them -- why not be a role model of where writing can take you?

The truth is I had no idea what they'd think. We're a little over halfway through, and I'm still searching their faces a little too much, trying to figure out what they are enjoying the most. The first thing I noticed after the first read aloud session, where we covered the first two chapters of the book, was the kids were a little speechless. I AM DRUMS was not turning out to be the book they thought I'd written. It was about a girl, first and foremost, and the kids described her that first day as "not really someone who fits in" and as a "girl who acts like a boy because she wears a baseball cap." Interesting.

Thankfully, my biggest fear (that they'd hate the book) was proven silly. I not only had their attention, but possibly the largest participation in discussions than any other read aloud all year. And they had interesting things to say -- about who Sam was, and whether she was doing the right thing, and can it be okay to do the wrong thing if your heart is in the right place at the time. It has been kind of amazing.

Another surprise -- Pete, the music teacher, is a big hit. I always worried I wrote him as too rough and tough, but the kids so far find him oddly hilarious. One student said, in response to the chapter that introduces him into the story, "That sounds like something you'd write." Then quickly added, "I meant that in a good way." :)

One quick confession -- I pulled a few moments of mild questionable language. And yes, I do feel a bit cowardly, especially since I am (for the most part) philosophically on the side of letting kids read what interests them over removing the opportunity to read something potentially mature for their age. On the other hand, I have to respect my role as teacher while those kids are in my hands, and I think, given the context, it was the right decision for this particular age group.

There's still plenty more book to go. The kids have made a lot of predictions, and it will be interesting to see how they react as Sam's story plays out.