Next month the new school year begins. I am excited that I am at a new school, but more importantly I am thrilled that I found my first read aloud for the new year. The first read aloud is vital to setting the stage for one of the most important times of the day. Over the years I have found that the first book must be short, funny, and have a male main character. I avoid books that deal with recent divorce, illness, death, etc. Not because these topics shouldn’t be discussed or read, but I don’t know my new kids. These books will come later.
The reason I find it important to start the year with a book with a male protagonist is because I want to lasso my boys into the world of books on day one! The last couple of years I read Otis Dooda by Ellen Potter. It is a hilarious book about a family that moves from a small town in the South to an apartment building in New York City. The book focuses on Otis’ first week getting to know his new friends. I love this book, and I had planned on reading it this year. It is a good fit since I will be new at the school this year.
However, I read Waylon! One Awesome Thing by Sara Pennypacker and changed my mind. In the book we are introduced to Waylon, a new fourth grader and classmate of Clementine. Knowing that Clementine is in the class sets the tone that this is no quiet class. Anyhow, Waylon soon discovers that the class “leader” is dividing the boys into two groups. Arlo is the “decider”, and what he says stands. Boys from opposing groups are no longer allowed to be friends with boys from the other group.
One day a new student arrives. Actually, he was in the class briefly the year before; but left shortly after the school yea started. Everyone is terrified of Baxter. He shows up the first day with a scar and stubble on his face. Waylon discovers that the scar is bubble gum. Soon after Baxter’s arrival Waylon finds himself groupless, and not fearing Baxter. As time goes on Waylon discovers that Baxter is not the person everyone thinks he is.
Waylon! One Awesome Thing has all the components of what I look for in a first read aloud. Male main character, humor, and short. With that said, the message this book has makes it perfect. As teachers we work hard to stop bullying. Not as easy as people think. When one boy divides the class he is a bully, even if everyone things he is a nice guy. The book will hopefully lead to discussions about kindness. I, also, hope that we can talk about not judging people based on appearances. Finally, the book is very funny. I think some of the funniest scenes are when Waylon is interacting with his teenage sister. She has changed her name to “Neon” and constantly says, “What’s the point?”.
I can’t wait to share this book with my new class, and see what else we will read this year.