Every February, the first graders at my elementary school participate in "Running Start," a program where they read 35 books out loud to someone else. On Friday afternoons at 2:45, volunteers listen to the first graders read their stories, asking them questions about their reading to make sure they just aren't word calling, but really understanding what they are reading. For most first graders, this is their first time reading out loud to an audience.
This year, not very many adults volunteered to help. Our first grade team leader put out an urgent call to the 4th and 5th grade classrooms, asking for volunteers to help with Running Start. I considered our Friday afternoon schedule. At 3:00 on Fridays, we have Fun Friday (an extra recess, game time, etc.). Would my students want to give up Fun Friday for six weeks to listen to some first graders read? I decided to let my 4th graders decide so I asked if anyone wanted to volunteer.
Every single hand went up.
This past Friday was the first Running Start session. My 4th graders reported for duty, ready to listen and question. They took this job very seriously....more seriously than I thought they would. They were patient, supportive, and encouraging of these new readers. It made my teacher heart happy.
When my students returned to our room, they were all abuzz with stories about their first grader reader -- who they read with, how many books they finished, how they helped a little one figure out a new word. They recalled what their Running Start experience was like when they were in first grade and how it felt to be on the other side of the book this time around.
Then I overheard the best comment: "It felt really good to help out."
No one asked about Fun Friday or complained that we missed it.
It sounds to me like we didn't.