Prince Elementary School asked if I'd like to be a Guest Reader. I couldn't say YES fast enough. And so, early in the morning, I found myself in the most well behaved third grade classroom in the universe.
I'm not kidding, denizens. These scholars were bent over their notebooks, concentrating on the problem sets, then seriously discussing the varieties of the graphs before them. There was no fussing, no kibbitzing, no jostling. There was only working.
Math ended, books were replaced, and the students assembled on the carpet while I assumed the chair of honor. While the rest of the class joined us, we looked at the pictures in Grandfather Twilight, a children's go-to-sleep book with the most beautiful illustrations. We talked about books and pictures telling the story as well as the words, or even, in this case, without the words at all.
And then we read an excerpt from the D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, stories these children had never heard. Finding an appropriate story was tough; there's a lot of illicit sex and murder of relatives. But Zeus and Hera and Io was benign enough to share with 8 year olds. The D'Aulaires gloss over how Io came to be with child, concentrating on Hera's anger and Io's life as a beautiful white cow.
I read about Hermes boring Argos to death and about Hera putting Argos's hundred eyes on the peacock's tail feathers and about Io jumping over the Bosphorus, which translates to cow ford, in case you are as interested as they were. In fifteen minutes we explored an old saying, talked about Tucson's zoo's peacocks, whose feathers did look just like eyes at the end, and learned a little geography.
It was time to move on to kindergarten, and Caps for Sale. It's a book I enjoyed as a child, a book my children adored, and it is now a book that several kindergarten classrooms filled with refugee children can laugh at, too. "You monkeys you... You give me back my caps" is a refrain that kept them giggling and engaged.
Then we turned to Grandfather Twilight, and as I turned the pages more slowly they drew nearer and nearer as the old man's journey through the glade and out to the sea quieted them. They murmured about the beautiful illustrations, just like their older schoolmates. They saw how the pictures told the story, noticing that some of the pages had no words at all and it was still called a book.
Though they all thanked me as I left the classrooms, the thanks really should have gone from my heart to theirs.