“Hug your books! You don’t want them to get wet,” advised the librarian as the children lined up to return to their classroom. The children did hug their books, but not only to protect them from the rain. They hug their books every time they get new ones. These are books they have chosen themselves and can keep as their very own: books from Reading Is Fundamental (RIF).
Since its founding in 1966, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) has distributed more than 410 million books to 39 million underserved children. The mission of RIF is to work with children, parents, and community members to make reading fun. As a writer of educational materials for children in grades K through 6, I am one of those community members and I welcome the opportunity to interact with students and teachers who benefit from my work.
In that spirit, I love visiting a school in Seaside and reading to children in grades K, 1, and 2 on behalf of RIF. Beforehand, the teacher specifies whether she wants a reading in English or in Spanish. (In Spanish, RIF is known as Semillitas de aprendizaje—Seeds of Learning.) In either language, I have so much fun with the children. They make me laugh and think, and I return to work feeling energized.
My most recent visit was scheduled for the Friday just before Read Across America Week and Dr. Seuss’s birthday, so the coordinator of the volunteers asked if we might dress the part. It was short notice, but I remembered a blue hat I had crocheted for my teenage son to wear to football games. It was perfect, so I responded:
I have a fun hat.
It’s furry and blue.
I think I may go
As Thing 1 or Thing 2.
When I arrived at Room 15 (grade 1), a little boy recognized me immediately: “Hey! I know who you are! You’re the helper from Cat in the Hat!”
Several others had never heard of Thing 1, but I assured them that, not to worry, they would soon find out, and I started my reading of The Cat in the Hat. It was a lively reading and the children were full of questions and comments. One girl wondered why the children in the story had to sit, sit, sit, sit. Didn’t they have a television? Another boy shook his head and said he did not like this one little bit either.
At the end of the story, when the mother comes home, the children and I had this interesting discussion which, if I had planned, would not have turned out so perfectly. I glanced over at the teacher and she was beaming with pride. I would have been, too!
S1: Mrs. Lopez, why do we only see the mother’s feet and not her face?
GL: That’s a great question. Why do you all suppose the author did that?”
(Hands shoot up.)
S2: I think the illustrator only knew how to draw children’s faces. When he started drawing the mother, he thought, ‘Boy, that’s an ugly face. I think I’ll draw a door in front of it.’
S3: Or maybe it’s because the talking cat and talking fish, and Thing 1 and Thing 2… those things are all pretend. They’re fantasy. The mother is real. So the author did not want the mother to be in the fantasy.
S4: Maybe the author is saving the mother’s face for the next book he writes.
GL: These are all great answers. You’re so smart and you’ve left me thinking. Now I must go, and I leave you with this:
Farewell, dear children.
It’s always such fun.
I’ll see you again.
Good-bye from Thing 1!