March 6th was World Read Aloud Day. I’ve been reading non-stop with my teachers, so this day couldn’t have come at a better time. It was a great way to start transferring the knowledge the teachers have been receiving to the students. For many teachers, it was the first time they had read a children’s book aloud to their class.
Unfortunately, there is not a reading curriculum in The Gambia. There is simply an English curriculum. Children are not taught to make predictions, to analyze text, or to make connections. When I finish a book with my teachers and ask what they want the children to learn from the text, they often offer me a summary of the story. I’ve been digging deeper with my teachers by having them look for the lessons and morals in books.
Recently, a friend sent me The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. As I read through the story and tried to produce a moral, I decided to search the Internet to find out what others thought. I was surprised to find that it is an extremely controversial book. For those of you that have not read the story, I will offer a quick summary.
A young boy goes to play on a tree everyday. The boy loves the tree and the tree loves the boy. However, the boy grows older and soon he no longer wants to climb the tree’s trunk or swing from its branches. The boy has other wants and needs. First, he wants money. So, the tree offers her apples to sell. Then he wants a house, subsequently, the tree gives him her branches. He wants a boat to travel the world. She gives him her trunk. The tree gives and gives until she has nothing left. The boy returns when he is old. All the tree has to offer is a place to sit on what's left of her, her stump. Fortunately, all the boy wants is a place to sit. The tree is happy and the boy is happy.
Critics say the boy in the story is greedy and ungrateful. I don't see it like that. I agree with the light-hearted readers. Many have declared that the story is about unconditional love. Readers related the book to a mother's love for a child. I see the story of love. I can relate to the text because I experience that love as a teacher. As a teacher you give and give, and all you want in return is to see your students grow and flourish.
I’m delighted to say that I have been giving to my teachers and they are doing just that. In the past 2 weeks, I have sat down and read 41 books with my teachers. They are making connections between the texts and finding morals. More importantly, they’re passing on their knowledge to their students. On World Read Aloud Day, I had 8 teachers say thank you in the best way ever by reading to their students.