Tuesday, April 14, 2020

By the Book with Mrs. Chambers, RES kindergarten para and friend to all

 "I was getting to where I could SEE the truth. Someday I ́ll be BRAVE enough to speak it ̈ - Ponyboy from The Outsiders 

What kind of reader were you as a child? Reading was a difficult process for me. I can recall stories others read to me but didn't begin my own reading journey until I was in sixth grade. I was taught how to read using basic primers with no content and no comprehensive meaning. I was never told I was a struggling reader, I was simply pulled out of the classroom and assigned tasks of decoding. Learning to read was a torture for me. No one explained I learned differently, there was no discussion of any kind, I was just to do as I was told. When I finally made it to middle school my world changed. I had a reading specialist teacher named Mr. Knowe. He explained to me that I just learn differently and once I caught on I would have a gift forever. He told me if I continued to push back then reading would never become an opportunity for adventure. Then, he did something no one before had ever done. Instead of forcing me to read some standard level book he told me to browse the shelves in his room and choose something I WANTED to read. I chose The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Everyone was talking about this book. Mr. Knowe didn't tell me it was too much for me, he simply said, "Excellent choice! It will be slow going at first, here is a notebook, write down words you have trouble pronouncing and words you look up in the dictionary that you don't know along the way." It took me six months to read that book in class everyday for an hour and an hour at home every night, interrupting myself to look up a word I didn't know the meaning of and going back to reread the same passage with the meaning newly learned. I LOVED IT! Mr. Knowe helped me pronounce words daily and slowly it began to click. I had to see what would happen next in the story, I had to work at it because he allowed me to be invested in my choices. When I finally finished I was excited to start something new but instead he asked me to read it again. I was bewildered. I wanted to move on but I did as he asked and that is when I discovered that books are gifts you open again and again. I reread The Outsiders and discovered details I had missed and this time I didn't have to stop as often to look things up or get correct pronunciations. That summer I received my first library card. I went and got books that my fellow students had been talking about since third grade. I read Charlotteś Web, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sarah Plain and Tall, all the Judy Blume books, everything by S.E. Hinton. I became obsessed and tried to make up for lost time. Mr. Knowe changed my world and allowed me to see education differently.
Which childhood books and authors stick with you most? The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, I still read it once a year and Are you there God? Itś me Margaret and Blubber by Judy Blume. Judy Blume made growing up not feel so lonely. She had a way of writing that made you feel you could be a character in her stories. She discussed issues that were hard for children to talk about with adults. 
"It's very foolish to laugh if you don't know what's funny in the first place ̈ Blubber by Judy Blume 
Once I was in college and studying childrenś literature I became obsessed with picture books and K-1 classics like Caps for Sale, Green Eggs and Ham and stories I could share by making voices and acting out parts of the characters. I wanted younger children that struggled the way I did to find joy in books by being actively read to to make them eager to try. 

 "How can I stop worrying if I don't know if I'm going to turn out normal? ̈ Are you there God? Itś me Margaret by Judy Blume. 
Describe your ideal reading experience. First and foremost: All school year long, at school during meeting or reading time, any childrenś book with silly voices and animated reactions. I LOVE Pete the Cat stories, Froggy books and The Vanishing Pumpkin by Tony Johnston and so many more. I enjoy making literature come to life. 
What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
I recently read the Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline and was disturbed to discover during this epic historical fiction story that there was an actual Orphan Train Movement in the late 1800's to 1920's that placed orphaned and abandoned children of all ages on trains from major cities like NYC and out to the midwest to be either adopted or taken in, which essentially meant years of free child labor on farms and in factories. Some of the children were loved and cared for but the vast majority were mistreated.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?  Judy Blume and S.E. Hinton for creating a foundational love of reading for me. J.K. Rowling because she is brilliant and because my nephew Brian was in fourth grade and a struggling reader when the first Harry Potter came out. I bought a copy for him and one for me. We read it together having a weekly conversation on the phone about each chapter. We did the same for each book in the series and our conversations became nightly by the end. J.K. helped me become like Mr. Knowe, for my nephew. My nephew is now married and expecting their first child. I'm attempting to make a Harry Potter quilt for them. 


  1. I struggled with reading too when I was little. I remember my mom taking me to a speed reading class of some sort to improve my skills and comprehension and that it worked. I used to just choose books by the artwork until then. It was fun to catch up with some of my peers reading as well. I would have loved to read the Harry Potter stories when I was younger. I read the whole series after my all my kids were old enough swim . I spent the summer reading them on the beach and binged watched the whole series again on tv last weekend. I still notice new details each time I experience the stories. Would love to see a picture of that quilt!

  2. The Outsiders remains one of my favorite books. It really was the book that everyone was reading. I read it over and over again. And oh! Are you there, God? For some reason I felt I had to hid that book from my poor mother, although she never forbid me to read anything. Crazy kid. Thanks for sharing, Mrs. Chambers and stay gold!

  3. I loved reading your post! Thank you for sharing your struggles and how you overcame them. I am so happy that the reading world opened up to you and now you are opening it up for so many others! Good luck on that quilt!