I get invited to read to the first grade classes at a local elementary school about once a month. At first, I was super super nervous about reading to kids who are older than the normal crowd of toddlers and preschoolers I deal with in programs. What if they were mean to me? What if my songs were to babyish? What if they threw tomatoes at me?!? It turns out things were fine! I’ve pretty much given up on singing songs with them, though – they all go to music class regularly, and most songs I could teach them really are a touch babyish. Sometimes we’ll do an interactive song, but usually I just pick out a few books and go from there. Here’s what I read to them on February 13 – the day before Valentine’s Day!
Mr. Prickles: A Quill Fated Love Story by Kara LaReau and Scott Magoon
This book is a perfect example of why I’ve really grown to love my trips to see the first graders. It’s a little too long for me to read to preschoolers, but more than that, it’s full of puns and visual gags that younger kids just aren’t ready to understand. On one page early in the story, the other forest animals are tossing cherries around in a tree. Mr. Prickles, of course, just gets fruit stuck all over him because he’s full of quills. The text says “He tried to join in their nightly frolicking, but it was fruitless.” Pretty cute, eh? As I read this to one of the groups, a little boy cried out excitedly “I GOT IT! IT’S A PUN BECAUSE THEY’RE THROWING FRUIT!” His pure unbridled joy at understanding the play in the language was just incredible. We also talked a little about how the illustrator showed the Mr Prickles was lonely by making him very small on the page and the trees very large, and that he was angry by using a lot of red. This book has a really rich color pallet that really is a joy to look at. Even though it’s about cutesy love, it doesn’t fill the pages with pastels and lace. It’s instead an almost cartoon-y view of life in the forest. A total winner.
Mole’s Babies by David Bedford and Rosalind Beardshaw
We talked a little bit about how there’s different kinds of love, from romantic kind of love in Mr Prickles to the love your parents have for you. Then we launched right into Mole’s Babies. The illustrations are very sweet in this book, and the pastels fit with the baby animal theme. Anyway, Mr Mole wants his babies (who are going to be here very soon!) to be happy, so he goes around to the different animals with happy babies and tries to do what they’re doing. Of course, when he tries to fly, he falls on his head, and in the end, it’s love that makes happy babies. The kids got really in to guessing what would happen when he was trying to hop. When he was trying to swim, like the duck babies, they all said “he’s going to drown”, which I thought was kind of hilariously dark (in fact, he just gets wet). Anyway, this is a very sweet book, and it was fun to read together.
Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Peter H Reynolds
This is another excellent book that I think really shined with the older crowd. The sparse, rhyming text is fast to read, but I think the first graders really understood how crazy it was to plant a kiss and have it grow. We talked a little bit about how it’s a poem, but also a story, and then I let them guess what was special about the pages. They’re sparkly and beautiful! This was a fun book to wrap things up with.
Rum Pum Pum
I mean, rum pum pum is the most ridiculous thing in the world, but gosh these first graders love it. We did it really fast, and then super slow (which cracks them up). Then one kid asked if we could do it fast AND slow. That was pretty hard – we did the rum pum pums fast and the gooley gooley gooleys slow. It’s a fun way to mark the end of my time.
This was just a fun outreach. When I said I was going to leave, they all made “awww” noises, so I told them I’d much rather be hanging out with them than go back to work. One little lady exclaimed “I wish you were off today!” I’m charmed by the fact that she thinks I could just hang out all day in first grade if I weren’t working. If you’re nervous to go to first grade classrooms and do storytimes, like I was, don’t be! It’s SO fun, and SO easy, and it really does make a difference. We’ve had so SO many kids come in from the school, and they’re all very excited to see a friendly face.