I had the pleasure of reading to my daughter’s first grade class yesterday afternoon. It came after a morning when I had been attending a symposium on the unemployment crisis from the recent recession (see yesterday’s post). Fitting then that I should be trying to inspiring a group who know nothing much about joblessness.
My daughter had decided on the book that I would read, Ginger and Petunia, about a pet pig left to fend for herself while her owner had to go to England. A sitter should have been there but did not like the idea of being a pig minder. I wonder why. Anyway, Petunia turned out to be quite resourceful and with the help of Ginger’s elegant wardrobe, filled in for her owner giving music lessons, attending functions, and even doing the tango at a ball. All normal stuff for children’s literature.
Other parents who had read to the class recently had set the bar high, by bringing treats or doing magic tricks. No chance of that, from me. I decided I would just be me. First off, I told the children that instead of the book I would read from the day’s Washington Post: they whooped and yelled “Yeah!”, “We don’t care!”. I flashed the front page, which had a picture of the Redskins drubbing by Philadelphia on Monday night. Kids just seemed ready to hear someone read. As I started, I realised that my ‘trick’ was to have a definite British accent, ideal for telling a story that had lots to do with England, like a place named Chesrterton upon Punsey.
Children get excited by all kinds of things and the notion of a pig being kissed was more intriguing for them than dealing with a pig driving a red sports car, or preparing food from the fridge, or somehow not being found out to be a pig just because she was wearing red lipstick and fancy dresses. Don’t all pigs sit on bar stools, drink chardonnay while listening to opera and eating pasta, and say “An impudent little wine…insistent, yet witty…with just a hint of grass, yet buttery”? Bodily functions get them going too, so they loved hearing that the pig burped after dinner.
My first grader had pride of place, sitting next to me, looking onto the circle of class mates sitting on a mat with their teacher. I asked her afterwards what had been special. Having her dad read was cool. But, cooler still for her was being to see the circle without her in it: it looked incomplete, she thought. Fascinating.