She sat next to me on the bed, mouse ears in place. I'd been reading aloud The Tale of Despereaux on Flipgrid for my third graders. It was the perfect story, in my opinion, for quarantine. The idea of darkness and light, good and evil, and stories bringing light to a dark world. In sharing this story with my class, I hoped to bring them some light. The comfort of a read aloud and a compelling story about an unlikely hero.
My daughter Megan, a first grader, listened to me read the book before I decided to read it to my class. I read it to her and her brother and after finishing it, decided it would be the next book I read to my students. Still, Megan wanted to be next to me as I read aloud. As the days went by, she took more and more of a role in the read aloud.
First, she would start us off with a "Hello Guys" and a message. Then, she started working the filters. And somewhere near the end of the book, Megan became Despereaux. She donned her mouse ears from her two previous productions of being a mouse- last summer in camp when she was one of the 3 blind mice without any lines in the production of Shrek and once in the winter when she was the mouse in Aesop's Fable The Lion and the Mouse in an after school club. She's always the mouse, she says. But she is quite good in the role.
She was a star in the role of Desperaux. It brought the book to life to have her act out some of the scenes. I hope my students will enjoy watching her be part of the read aloud as something funny and different from what would have been if we were actually in the classroom together. Megan would have been in her classroom and the dramatic interpretation would not have occurred.
Quarantine or social distancing or whatever it is to stay in your house and go nowhere for weeks on end brings about many moments or boredom or frustration. But also moments of joy that wouldn't have happened otherwise. I was impressed with Megan's ability to read the words with inflection and emotion. She is in first grade and Kate DiCamillo has a beautiful but sophisticated way of phrasing things. Megan didn't miss a beat. Snuggled up next to me with her mouse ears, I wonder what she it taking in about language and literacy and teaching and learning and connection with students. When she is a Superintendent or a President of the World or some other big fancy job as I have no doubt she is capable of being, will the memory of her school teacher mother reading aloud to her students each day become part of her core? About what she believes about learning and life?
I hope she will remember being the mouse in a read aloud during a time of quarantine. I won't forget it.
Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski