Life happens and already in the first week of the new year, life threw a small curve ball my way. Early in the morning of January 6th I was awakened with stomach pain. I thought I was coming down with the flu. Less than thirty hours later I was in ER with acute appendicitis. Surgery! Several people sent me messages, “Enjoy the recovery time and read..” Well, that first week, I was too miserable even to read. There went my book a day challenge! Happy to say, I am caught up. My “rules” had to be changed a little. Originally, I didn’t want any “excuses” for me to miss a day of logging at least one picture book. Back on track now but had to make some amends.
As I was thinking about my medical experience, guess what book I thought of? It is a Caldecott Honor book and published in 1939. “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines…” Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. I’ve read the book several times throughout my life. My eldest daughter, Jennifer, loved it. We even have the Madeline doll complete with an appendix scar. However, I never “really thought” about the book. Imagine having appendicitis in 1939. Antibiotics? I wondered if Ludwig Bemelman’s daughter had appendicitis. I wonder why he selected that ailment for Madeline. I never really thought about how spunky Madeline was. What a different role model Mr. Bemelmans created for young girls in that time period. My strong connections led to all of these questions. In my search to find answers to some of my questions I came across the delightful official Madeline website, http://www.madeline.com Ludwig Bemelmans’s grandson has written a new Madeline adventure, Madeline and the Cats of Rome. It is delightful new tale that Madeline fans will enjoy.
Back to connections. I often wonder about reluctant readers. What is it that makes the reading process not pleasurable for them? When I have conferred with readers who can read, but struggle to get through text, I’ve questioned and noticed that they aren’t making connections. They are also not seeing any images in their heads. That amazes me. As I reader I’m always “in the story.” The characters and I are having continual conversations. I am in the setting. Thinking back on my educational experience in the sixties and seventies, I was not taught how to make connections or use any of the other thinking strategies. Workbook pages were filled with literal questions about Dick and Jane. There were no conversations about the author’s message or noticing how my thinking changed as I read. We weren’t asked to generate our own questions or wonderings. This is one of the reasons why I am so excited about Reading Workshop and Ellin Keene’s work on thinking strategies. When we first started teaching thinking strategies in Reading Workshop, I heard many comments from teachers saying, “My kids are driving me crazy. They make connections all of the time.” I was concerned that teachers would stop giving opportunities for connection sharing. Some things to try if you are unable to finish a story without zillions of interruptions is to have a hand signal for kids when they make a connection while you are reading. A thumbs up or a hand over the heart are hand signals that have worked. At the end of the story, have them think over their connections. Instruct them to share one of their strongest connections with a partner. You can also use clipboards and have your readers note connections as you read. The essence of reading pleasure and meaning, I believe, are the connections we make in text. Connections lead to practicing the other strategies. My new connections to Madeline led to all kinds of questions that I had not wondered before.