I am a big believer in reading aloud to students. I typically read from a chapter boon to my class every day after lunch. Continuing a tradition that started just last year, my first chapter book of the year was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. My students love the story of Peter Hatcher and his constant annoyance with the crazy shenanigans of his little brother, Farley Drexel Hatcher, better known as Fudge. (As an aside, the story never gets around to explaining his nickname.) I love sharing this book with my class. I love even more that so many find it and other books by the author to read on their own! Several asked me to read the next book in the series, but I told them that they’ll have to read them on their own.
We finished Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing yesterday, and I told my students I wouldn’t reveal the next book until this afternoon. I had a few ideas, but I wasn’t sure which I was going to do until I checked my Twitter feed this morning and saw a post by my Internet friends John Schu, an elementary school librarian in Naperville, Illinois, and Colby Sharp, a third grade teacher in Minnesota and co-founder of The Nerdy Book Club Blog. It was actually a partial post that John accidentally shared that Colby retweeted. It simply said, “#bookaday A Wrinkle in Time.”
I love this book. I have read it many, many times. I have an old, battered copy on my bookshelf at home and an old but not-so-worn copy on my shelf at school. As a geeky guy who came from an often misunderstood family of incredibly smart older brothers and awesome younger sisters, I felt like I could identify with Meg Murry’s struggle to find herself. Add to it the wonderfully geeky science fiction elements that include dark planets, extraterrestrial visitors to our earth, happy mediums, and theoretical mathematics and physics that was probably made up but still intriguing, and I think you can start to understand why I love this book.
Also, the author, Madeleine L’Engle, is brilliant. From the first line, the reader is captivated by the rich language that weaves a literary tapestry of wonder like few other authors ever achieve. Seriously, I think that few other first-lines in literature are as famous as this one:
It was a dark and stormy night.
Sure, Ms. L’Engle was not the first to use it. That title belongs to Edward Bulwer-Lytton who used it in 1830. And yes, it was also the first line of W. W. Jacobs’ famous story, The Monkey’s Paw. Even Snoopy used it in his novel, although that came after A Wrinkle in Time was published. But what I love so much is how well this book is written and how captivating the story is!
We just got started today, and I haven’t even made it to Mrs. Whatsit’s first appearance, but I already have several students interested in reading along with me and finding other books by Madeleine L’Engle. And really, that is my goal for reading aloud to my students: to expose them to quality literature they may not read on their own and then to get them to do their own author studies.