Do You Ever Wonder If Kids Have Time to Wonder Anymore?

This past summer Pam Munoz Ryan, author of two of my favorite read aloud books (i.e., Becoming Naomi Leon and Esperanza Rising) spoke at the TCRWP Writing Institute. Her speech, “Reading to Write, and Writing to Read” took the audience on a journey of what she called “an unchoreographed childhood,” which was the result of her parents’ “benevolent neglect” (i.e., they were working and not running her around from activity to activity when she came home after school). As Ryan spoke, it became clear that she used this unchoreographed time to discover her love of reading. How lucky, for all of us, that she wasn’t shuttled from ballet class to piano lessons to softball practice since (I’m taking a guess here) she must have learned a whole lot about writing from all of the books she read as a child and as an adolescent. If you’ve ever read one of Ryan’s books aloud to your students, then you know what I mean… her writing is eloquent and is thereby appreciated by teachers and students.

The more I talk with primary teachers, the more I discover that unchoreographed time, for children to discover, investigate, and explore, is disappearing. Due to district-wide mandates and state standards, we are infusing skill development (Really, it’s test prep!) into first and second grades, and sometimes even at the end of Kindergarten, so our schools can make AYP. While I am all for quality instruction happening in primary classrooms, something doesn’t sit right with me about teaching seven year olds how to take a standardized test. After all, school should be a place that fosters exploration, creativity, and curiosity!

Enter A Place to Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades, which is a new Stenhouse title authored by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough. This book provides standards-based activities that foster critical thinking through “wonder centers.” (NOTE: The book is divided into three chapters, each of which has a checklist of curricular and state standards that will easily help you connect the amazing work Heard and McDonough offer up in this text to the things you must cover this year.) You can read the book online (which I did the day I heard it came out!) and even sign-up for a live webcast, led by Heard and McDonough on October 26th at 8 p.m. EST. Click here to learn more about the webcast.