From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please join me in welcoming today’s guest blogger, Eve Eaton, who currently teaches first grade at Sidwell Friends Lower School after having taught fourth graders for over a decade. She enjoys sharing books with students and introducing them to new titles. In addition to her love of reading, Eve is also a regular contributor to the “iPad Adventures at Lower School” blog, which is maintained by many teachers at her school. Eve is always seeking to deepen her understanding of technology integration in the classroom and truly enjoys having the opportunity to share her experiences with others.

Eve Eaton

It all started with a pig…

Last year, after 15 years of teaching fourth grade, I was able to re-energize my career and moved to teaching first grade. I was so excited to start something new and different! But then, on the first day of school, I was hit with the realization that I was going to have to teach our young students how to read! This is such an awesome responsibility; I wasn’t sure where to begin.

After a few weeks of testing and sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing, my co-teacher and I had a break-through. We are both experienced teachers! We actually know what we are doing! And as far as reading goes – read aloud time is one of the most important things we could do. We can discuss, ponder, enjoy good stories, learn new vocabulary and have a community experience all at once. Now…what books to share?

In teaching fourth grade for so many years, I had several favorite authors and Kate DiCamillo was certainly at the top of the list. So I went to the library, checked out Mercy Watson to the Rescue and hoped that the students in my class would like it as much as I did. Their reaction was better than I could have ever hoped for.

The anticipation for read aloud time was tangible every day. The students in our class were literally shaking with excitement to find out what happened next to our favorite porcine wonder. Our school librarian had to put a limit on the number of times a student in our class could renew a Mercy Watson title since everyone wanted to read those books again and again. We sat back and wondered why? Why are these books inspiring our students to want to become better readers?

First, the stories are so accessible to six and seven year olds. They love that Mercy is a pig who lives in a house. They love that she eats hot buttered toast all the time. They love that the Watsons love Mercy unconditionally and always assume the best intentions of everyone. Neighbors help each other in every book. Every story has moments of deep belly laughter. They learn new words – our class had a long discussion of “folly” one day. There is some predicable language in every book, so even our beginning readers know what is coming next. The students are so invested in the stories that they were willing to persevere with learning how to read better.

That is the magic of Mercy Watson. Students fall in love with the character and the silliness of the stories appeals to them so much that they are willing to stretch themselves in order to read the books on their own.

My co-teacher and I just started reading the series to our class this year. Our students are having the same reaction and are talking about perhaps basing our class play on Mercy Watson again. And what would we serve at the party after the play? Hot buttered toast, of course. Lots of hot buttered toast.

Thank you Eve for sharing how our favorite books can turn others into readers. And happy birthday, today!

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