January 17, 2018

Books on Tape LIVE!

When people meet me for the first time and find out that I’m a teacher, an onslaught of questions usually follows. Some of the questions are absurd while others are genuine. My favorite question to be asked is, “What’s your favorite part of the job?” ”


“It’s not summer”, I remark much to their surprise. My favorite part is reading aloud. That time right after lunch and recess. It’s designed to be a 15-20 minute period, but sometimes we get carried away and pleas for, “NO! Just one more chapter!” ensue. I cave easily. I simply despise being compared to a television channel that always cuts away at the best part to a bevy of commercials.


When I was a wee one, I remember my teachers read aloud to us. However, I do not remember what they read with one exception; my fourth grade teacher read Where the Red Fern Grows. I was floored. Never before had I cried at the end of a book. At that time, I didn’t think that I was reading it. I was just listening. But listening is an extremely important skill to develop. Our read alouds are treated like reading, listening, and writing because we rely on these authors to help us craft our own style of communication. Therefore, I do my best to choose books that will captivate the audience. I guess, I just wasn’t the best listener. My mom’s probably nodding in agreement.


We’ve read two books this year as a class. We started off with Wonder by R.J. Palacio, an amazing realistic fiction story told through the perspective of a protagonist who’s living with a genetic mutation that has resulted in an abnormal head. It was a gripping novel and it was extremely hard to finish it. One student exclaimed, “I didn’t like it.” When I asked him to explain further he said, “Because it’s over!” After Wonder concluded, I began one of my favorite read alouds of all time, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. Set within the walls of a castle during the medieval ages, it’s a fiction novel that focuses on a mouse who falls in love with a human princess. This is an absurd plotline, I’ll give you that. But DiCamillo is a mesmerizing author and we blew through it in three and a half weeks.


Last week we began the novel Holes by Louis Sachar. It’s about a boy who is sent to a juvenile correctional facility in the desert of Texas for being found guilty of stealing a pair of shoes that belonged to a celebrity athlete. Sachar has this amazing way of perfectly spinning history with comedy and a lot of culture. After all, he is the man that wrote Sideways Stories from Wayside School. You may be familar with the movie adaptation of Holes, but as most people always preach, “The book is always better.”


Many years back, a parent asked me for a book recommendation. I gave her A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck. She was stunned. She returned it to me with this genuine awe at how inspiring it felt. Her reaction was not that surprising to me. Another “best” part of this job is that I’m forced to read children’s literature, the best type of literature there is. I recommend you pick up these books so you not only experience their beauty, but so you can talk about them with your children just like you would talk about a film or sporting event. It will take slightly longer, but it will be extremely rewarding.


Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Dan Barnard About Dan Barnard

Dan Barnard hails from the Green Mountain State of Vermont where he grew up skiing, biking, and exploring the nooks and crannies of the woods. He learned to drive on his parents' station wagons, learned to ski at Smugglers' Notch, and developed a love for traveling by participating in school trips to France and New York City. He worked in many jobs ranging from ski instructing to babysitting to an after-school program that helped him decide he wanted to be a teacher.

He enrolled in Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts and earned a BA in Humanities with a focus on history and a concentration in Elementary Education. After working for two years in a suburban Boston community as a fifth grade teacher, he decided to move west to discover the beauty and bounty of Oregon. He worked for four years as a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade teacher in Mosier, Oregon. While working in Mosier he enrolled in graduate school at Portland State University and earned a MS in Curriculum and Instruction from Portland State University.