—Aimee Castleman—

EARLY INTERVENTION PROGRAM TEACHER

Aimee began teaching prekindergarten and did that for two years. She is now an early intervention program teacher at West Jackson Primary School in Winder, Georgia. Aimee’s favorite reading from the Readers as Teachers and Teachers as Readers seminar was GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING (Chevalier, 1999). She loves historical fiction and a good story, and this book is both.

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CHAPTER 8

All You Have to Do Is Listen and Enjoy
Aimee Castleman
ello. My name is Aimee, and I am a bookaholic. No, I don’t need caffeine, or nicotine, or alcohol, or any other chemical substance to get me through the day; all I need is a good book. Sometimes the need is so strong that I will let other important things go by the wayside just so I can get that fix. It wouldn’t matter that my house is a wreck or that someone just drowned in a pile of my dirty laundry. No, if I’m reading a good book, I wouldn’t even notice. When there is a book in my hands, I become THE BOOK. The scenes play out in my head like a movie. I become so engrossed that I won’t even hear my husband trying to talk to me; instead, I hear the characters speaking and other sounds described in the book. I feel so many emotions while reading a good book—sadness, joy, pain, hurt, fear, anger, and excitement. Excitement is my favorite! I got so excited while reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Rowling, 1997) that I actually had to put my hand over the bottom of the page so my eyes wouldn’t stray and give something away. I just love that feeling! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our students felt this way about reading? I would like nothing more than to give the gift of a wonderful book experience to my students and let them be swept away. I would like nothing There are many wonderful young readers more than to give the gift of a wonderful out there who become so involved in their book experience to my readings and who love reading. I was one of students and let those young readers. I read all the time—short them be swept away. books, long books, fiction and nonfiction books, picture books, magazines, basically whatever I

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could get my hands on. I wasn’t trying to be the class winner of most books read; I didn’t need or want points for reading. I just loved reading. So I read. Some of my best childhood memories come from reading favorite books. My grandma had the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (1953) at her house, and I remember reading and sharing those books with her. What a great book experience that was for me. I cannot imagine how my life would have been or would be now without loving to read. So working with students who would rather be doing anything else other than reading has been a challenge for me. As an early intervention reading teacher, I work with the students who don’t want to read because they struggle with it. They stumble along in that word-by-painful-word phase, but amazingly enough they understand what they read. I believe that they really want to enjoy books but feel trapped by what they can read. Each day, my students are supposed to bring a book of their choice to read to me during our time together. They tended to choose those easy, no-plot, controlled vocabulary books that are usually incredibly boring. (And I wonder why they aren’t enjoying books?) One by one, they brought their books over to read to me: One by one, I endured that monotonous reading voice. Not one of them smiled at any point in the book, not even at the one funny part! I asked, “Well, what did you think? Did you like it?” Every single one of them said, “Yeah. I liked it.” I was not convinced. The worst part is that, even though they were reading easy books, they were still stumbling on the words. And what’s worse than a monotonous stumbler? I know it is my job as a teacher to help students become fluent readers; however, as a self-proclaimed lover of reading, it is also my responsibility to help students find joy in reading. I believe that both can be accomplished. My school does that read-and-test-for-points routine, but thankfully, our students are not discouraged to check out books that are not on their level. I wanted to encourage my students to step out of the easy-book box. Because they would not bring any fun and challenging books to me, I decided to bring the books to them. I chose several books as possible read-alouds and presented them to the group one day. Students looked over the books, and I
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read the back of each one to give them some idea as to what the book was about. Then we took a vote. It was unanimous: The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron (1989) was to be the book. Unfortunately, our time together ended that day, so I told them we would begin the book the next day. Honestly, they did not look too excited about it, but I was determined to show them the fun that could be found in reading. The next day, toward the end of our time, I picked up the book. I held it up and said, “All you have to do is listen and enjoy.” Some of them were finishing up something else, and they looked up at me with these “Yeah, whatever, lady” faces and then went right back to work. What happened next was wonderful. All the students who were doing something else had literally dropped their pencils and were smiling up at me by the time I reached the bottom of page 2 of the story. One boy even got out of his seat to come and stand over my shoulder to read along with me. After finishing the first story, I heard a lovely chorus of, “Read another one, please!” Students laughed throughout the other stories in the book and were so excited to hear more of them. Finally, the day came when we finished the book. When I asked what they thought of it, students could hardly contain themselves: “Wow! Mrs. Castleman, that was really great!” “I liked when the dad told them about frogs in their shoes!” “Can you read that again?” What a nice change these reactions were from the ones of boredom I’d previously gotten from my students. We have continued to read some wonderful books together. It is really starting to rub off; students are bringing good books to class to read to me that are challenging and interesting. Several days ago, the boy who had stood over my shoulder brought a great book to me. It was sort of a spooky book that his teacher had out around Halloween. It was a [S]tudents are bringing good books to difficult book, but he read it beautifully. He class to read to me didn’t stumble, and he read with expression! that are challenging And at one point in the book, he laughed and and interesting. said, “That was so funny.”

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LITERATURE CITED
Cameron, A. (1989). The stories Julian tells. New York: Random House. Chevalier, T. (1999). Girl with a pearl earring. New York: Dutton. Rowling, J.K. (1997). Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone. New York: Scholastic. Wilder, L.I. (1953). Little house on the prairie. New York: HarperTrophy.

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