A Tale of What Should’ve Been

My wife adores a book called the The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate Dicamillo.  It is a story about a mouse who falls in love with a princess named Pea.  He goes on to overcome obstacles, transcend his lot in life, and succeeds. The other characters in the book grow too, or get redemption, or something like that, I haven’t read it.  Not yet anyway.

If you have seen the movie, I’m sorry, I heard it is terrible.  How do I know?  Well the kids in my wife’s classroom went to see the movie after being read the book in her class. In fact, each teacher in the entire grade read the book to their classes and took a field trip to see the movie.  The reviews:  “Terrible.  They left out this, they left out that.  Why did they change that character?   Where was this character?” etc.   A valuable lesson was learned:  the book is almost always better.

Sadly, the kids in my wife’s new school could never have the same opportunity.  You can probably guess why?

Going to see a movie is far from an educational standard.  While it may teach a lesson, it is not something that will be on the state test.  The district might argue that the teachers are just trying to get an afternoon off.

But, that isn’t the part I’m talking about.  In fact, based on some of the other field trips they have taken this year (to be detailed later), I imagine that going to a movie could be justified.  So what part am I talking about?  Why reading the book out loud, of course.

As I’ve mentioned before, there is no time in the schedule for my wife to read out loud to her kids.  The Tale of Despereaux, by protocol, cannot be part of her kids’ education.  Why you might ask?  Well certainly, it doesn’t fit into the schedule.  When forced to go through the prescribed lessons, there is no time left to read out loud to kids, unless it is a portion of a story from a textbook.

Never mind that reading out loud has numerous benefits.  To quote my wife on the subject, “Reading aloud models fluency for kids; it allows both the teacher and students to model comprehension. It engages kids at lower reading levels to engage in higher level thinking.  It encourages kids to explore new genres and authors. It also relaxes the kids and gives them common experiences.”   If that isn’t enough for you, here are some more reasons why reading aloud, at any age, is a positive (Link) (Link) (Link).

Luckily, my wife, the consummate rule follower, has become a bit of a rebel.  She managed to squeeze in reading The Tale of Despereaux aloud at the end of the day.  Together, the kids listen and thought about the complex story.  They stopped to discuss what was happening, learning from both my wife and each other.  They made predictions and shared the experience together. I guess this makes my wife a bad teacher by protocol. But, if there isn’t room in the protocol for reading aloud, how useful can the protocol really be?  Is this what we want?


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