Today was Ron Smith’s annual ego expansion day.
I know, some folks think my ego can’t get any larger, and some ask why I need assistance with something I do so well on my own.
Good points. But today was the last day I read to a first-grade class at a nearby elementary school. I’ve done this for five years now and always look forward to the last day with a combination of joy and sadness.
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After spending a mere 30 minutes a week with these little guys for the last nine months I know I’ll miss seeing them. They’ll be in second grade next year, and I read to first graders through a program sponsored by the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). I’m not retired, but just being old seems to be qualification enough.
I’ve read to the same teacher’s class every year and have developed a deep appreciation for her abilities, dedication and, yes, patience. Mrs. Jessica Boerner is making a difference. The country needs more like her.
I went into her class this morning to read one last book, to wish them all a safe and fun summer and to encourage them to read every day. And we said good-bye. That’s the sad part.
I only read part of a book today, a few pages from a “chapter book,” a departure from the short, simple, vividly illustrated books I typically read. And I told them that they could go to the book store or the library to find the book and finish reading it over the summer. I read just enough to get them hooked on the story. Then I gave each of them a copy of the book to take home. They were thrilled.
I never tire of watching their eyes light up at a funny part of a book (Tacky the Penguin is a favorite) or to see them perk up when the main character (Tacky, for instance) gets into trouble.
They ask questions—sometimes about the book but usually about something entirely different. I sometimes take in plants—cotton stalks and wheat heads—to explain why farms are important. First graders are sponges absorbing information. They listen. They engage in conversation and offer their insights. I am impressed with their intelligence and inquisitiveness.
Now, back to my ego. Today they presented me with 18 hand-made and personally illustrated cards, created with construction paper and crayons (I now have a collection of about 100 of these). From their points of view I am the best reader in the world, a good teacher, a wonderful human being and a good friend. I select wonderful books to read to them and work hard every week to spend 30 minutes reading to and listening to them.
They draw pictures of me holding a book and surrounded by children. That’s as good a description of heaven as I could want. Some clothe me in bright green pants and vivid shirts. They add hair, some (most) only put a little bit on my head, indicating their perceptive natures. Some color it an appropriate white.
I always open each card before I leave, read it aloud and tell the author how much I appreciate it. I do, more than I can tell them. Mrs. Boerner tells me the children look forward to my weekly visits. I hope they do; I think they do. I know that I benefit more than they do.
So, to the first grade class of 2014, congratulations. And thank you for your time and attention. And the wonderful cards.