Three times a year, I offer to be a guest reader in each of the 25 classrooms in our K-5 elementary school where I am the principal. I am quite mindful about the books I choose. For one thing, each needs to be appropriate and enjoyable for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. They also need to send an important message to the students.
I read to the students for three reasons:
- It gives the teachers a rare break. The 15 minutes I’m with their students is time when they can use the restroom, get a soda, or get a quick job done at the copier. To them, this is a precious gift.
- It ensures that every student knows me not just as a leader, or someone who talks to them when they’re in trouble, but also as a reader and learner.
- It shows teachers, students, and parents alike how much I value literacy. Connecting my memories of books, or telling stories that will motivate them to care about their school community, reinforces the message I want them all to understand: that I deeply value reading enough to schedule time for it, and I wish to share it with them.
This past school year, within the first few weeks after our return from summer break, I read A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech. When I finished, I spoke to the students about how to make our building a fine, fine school. I reinforced my longtime mantra of expectation: “All I ask is that you Work Hard and Be Nice.” They knew by then that those are the only two rules I insist upon.
In the middle of the year, I read my favorite childhood book, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. This book was one my mother read to me as a child, and I adored little Sal, disheveled and dreamy as I had been, swapping places with the adorable little bear. Afterward, I asked the students to tell me their favorite book and why they love it.
At the end of the year, I read Mrs. McBloom, Clean Up Your Classroom! It’s a hilarious story about winding up a school year and the work teachers must do to get ready for the next year.
I plan to begin this year with the beautiful, uplifting Pamela Duncan Edwards book titled Dinosaur Starts School. It sends a great message about positive attitudes and helping one another out. I’ll talk with the students about how we’ll have a strong, positive, and fun—yes, fun—school year.
Reading to students is my favorite part of my job. It reminds me why I do what I do: to connect with students, to share literacy, and to encourage students to learn from the messages books can teach us.