An inside look at Scholastic Reads

May 08, 2013
A 2nd grader draws a response to David Shannon’s book Duck on a Bike. She called it “Two Ducks Falling in Love”. On the first Wednesday of every month, a handful of Scholastic employees — myself included — have the opportunity to visit a New York City elementary school to read aloud to students. We’re all assigned to different classrooms; each month, we bring books to distribute to the students, read a few of the titles aloud, and then spend time working on coloring and/or activity sheets related to the books we just read. The program, Scholastic Reads, is one of my favorite parts about my job, and an experience I look forward to every month. Here at Scholastic, almost all of what we do and who we are as a company centers on books and education, but on a day-to-day basis it’s easy to forget what things are like in the classroom. Taking that hour and a half once a month to pop in and spend time with the students is a great reminder of why we do what we do, and why it’s so important to encourage kids to read every day. Education is, and always has been, an incredibly important part of my life. Coming from a family of educators and administrators has only reinforced its importance, and I often find myself wondering what it would be like to be a teacher. I would imagine that teaching, like most professions, comes with both rewards and challenges, and looking back on my K-12 experience, I’m blown away by just how awesome so many of my teachers were. I owe them all a huge thank you. Needless to say, Teacher Appreciation Week seems like a good time to reflect on the fantastic teachers I’ve had over the years, and to note that somewhere along the line, I think I subconsciously absorbed some of their tips and tricks. During my Scholastic Reads visit last week, perched on a wooden chair in front of a group of squirming first-graders, I realized just how much of my own elementary school education I draw upon in situations where I’m in the teacher’s seat. Some observations: I found myself referring to the students as “first-graders” instead of “boys and girls.” Growing up, the principal of our school was the only one who ever called us “boys and girls”; the teachers preferred something more gender-neutral. “Quiet Coyote” lives on. You know that hand-signal that teachers make– the one with the pinky- and pointer-fingers up in the air and the middle- and ring-fingers pressed closed onto the thumb? My teachers used to call it “Quiet Coyote”, and raising a hand in the air was a call for silence in the classroom. The teacher in the room I was visiting spoke at regular volume, asking her students to clap once if they could hear her, then twice if they could hear her, and so on. But I definitely had flashbacks to the “Quiet Coyote” days… “Raise your hands, please, first-graders.” Never have I ever felt more teacher-like. I loved the enthusiasm the students brought to read aloud, but it’s definitely hard to get a word in when there’s lots of shouting out. I’d totally forgotten about the criss-cross applesauce days! Getting to use the phrase “criss-cross applesauce” was something I never thought I’d get to do. And then Scholastic Reads gave me the chance. I’m pretty sure this was a tip from The Baby-sitters Club, but when making the rounds as students worked on their coloring sheets, I made sure to ask, “Can you tell me about your picture?” instead of “What are you drawing?” or — lesson learned the hard way — “Is that your family?” (That assignment was “draw something you love”; when I asked a student if he was drawing his family, he looked at me like I had three heads and said, “No, it’s the Power Rangers. Duh.”) How about you? Are there any tips you’ve picked up from your elementary school teachers? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!