I returned to work in a grade-school library Monday. A cart full of last unit’s books, two rooms full of words, and multiple reading nooks greeted me. I eagerly started my tasks, as I had spent time at home trying to recreate the sound that picture books make when their binding hits the wooden shelves and their covers glide against others. I was more than ready to return to the warmth that emits from the open bindings of my favorite books.
A reading specialist and a student came into the library when the squeaking of little snow boots, slamming lockers, and swinging doors silenced to the lull of active minds. The teacher eased him into the chapter book with reading activities, ditto sheets and encouraging words. Eventually he removed his bookmark and began to read. He climbed over words and animated narration, slowly but steadily, as one does when they are taking their first steps. Frequent pauses indicated the application of phonetics activities to the two-and three-syllable words that met his eyes. At the end of a sentence, a smile crossed his moving lips, because he knew he was reading, and he was doing a great job. I smiled with him.
When early readers pick up books and dissect the words, they are taking babysteps toward the various journeys authors take them on. I thought about these steps when I encountered a book written by Sharon Robinson, about her father Jackie Robinson. I’m not going to give away the details, but she compares a memory of her dad’s bravery to moments from his daring and notable career as a baseball player. Testing the Ice has a great message, multiple historical references, and beautiful illustrations by Kadir Nelson. I learned from the book, and from watching the student in the library that, as we encounter these challenges – reading, competition, fear – it is important to not only have courage, but to approach them with small steps. Even the most humble acts can make a huge impression on the lives of others.