In light of our recent and ongoing discussions and wonderings about ‘book selection’ and the process that goes into discerning a good book from an okay book and these two from maybe a not-so-good-book; I’ve been trying to pay more attention to asking the kids questions about to describe their books and perhaps what they liked about it. I’ve been LiS-tening and thinking.
At the end of a story reading in class, I ask the kids- “Did you like this book? Or did anyone in the class not like the book or something in the book? What did you like about the book?” In this moment, the answer is generally a unanimous “YES!” This is almost always a heady moment…it could mean that this was a well picked story that was well transacted too. On the flipside, it could also mean that the kids are unable, unwilling or unaccustomed to responding unfavorably to a teacher asking a question like that.
(Errrrrrr….a moment of awkward silence here.)
Still in that moment when the book is just done and the chorused yes answer has been heard. There’s always a moment of doubt… Wait, did I see a glimmer of uncertainty on the face of that girl on the 3rd bench? Did she not like the book? Why?
Yesterday in the 3rd std class in St. Thomas Girls Primary School, I read The Village Fair. This is definitely a book I enjoy reading aloud because; the theme being such; it never fails to elicit a response from the kids. I’ve not yet found a child who has not had an experience associated with going to the fair. At the end of the reading, I asked the question and ofcourse got the expected response. Then I asked (what I now know is) the million dollar question- “What did you like about the book?”
Ahhhhh….this is where the gold lay! “Teacher, I like the story!’ ‘I like that Meenu still got to see the fair!’ “Teacher, her Grandfather was ready to take her to the fair!’ ‘I like the bioscope!’ ‘I like that Meenu was happy!’
Hmmmmmm…..so maybe it was that the kids actually enjoyed the book and their response was not superficial?! 😀
But this was not it. A couple of days earlier, in a time in class where we were book browsing, I asked the kids to write down the name of the book they’d taken home, identify the author and illustrator and then note if they liked the book they’d taken home or not and why. I have to admit that while this was a conscious attempt at getting the kids to identify these things and also to generate some reflection on why it is that they liked the book, there was a hidden agenda of assessing whether they were happy with the selection of books that we had put in the school.
Having just gone through that set of books, the answers I saw were of a wide range. There were some who left the class mid-activity because they were called for some practice or the other for annual day (a phenomenon happening across schools at this time of the year) and some who left a number of blanks. At the other extreme, there were kids who said ‘I liked the book.’ ‘The book was super!’ ‘I like the pictures in the book’ ‘I like the book because there were many jokes in the book.’ ‘I love the book because its about cars and I love cars!’ ‘I like the book because it’s a lift-the-flap book.’ And those are just the good ones.
There’s always the other side of the coin. One particular girl told me that she didn’t like the book because it had too many pictures in it and that she preferred reading paragraphs. Another stated, ‘I didn’t like the book because there was a very short story. And still another said that they didn’t like the book because there was too much to read.
So there is a thought behind the book. These little ones are thinking about what they are reading and what they would like to read….and what they haven’t enjoyed reading. And this is a wonderful thing! This is what we hope for and are working towards…a community of young discerning readers, who love books!