One of my favorite parts of my job this year has been working with the weekly classroom English libraries in 2nd grade. Why? Mostly because I think reading is an incredibly important part in any child’s educational formation, but also because I loved seeing their excitement as they kept jealous watch over their progress on the Reading Champs chart.
The Reading Champs chart is just a simple poster in the back of the room with each child’s name written on the left in fun, colorful letters. But, as much delight as I took decoratively writing each individual name, I have to admit that that is not the kids’ favorite part of the chart. No, these little non-admirers of art have been far more interested in counting the line of stickers growing away to the right of their names, each sticker representing a different book that they have taken home, read, and turned back in to the library. They have been counting all year long, getting more and more excited as they near the final space on the chart, the big TWO-O, or 20 for those of you who tend to like more solid numbers and less wordy rig-a-ma-role (but really, who doesn’t like a little wordy fun?).
Now, if one were to simply look at the chart, reaching the final space/sticker/book wouldn’t seem like such an extraordinary thing. After all, 20 stickers are merely 20 stickers, right? WRONG!! Twenty stickers is the magic number of stickers, the perfect amount that will bring you within reach of the mysterious “surprise” promised by us, the mysterious teachers, at the beginning of the year. Whatever could that surprise be??? Well, read 20 books, and you just might find out…
This past week, two students in both of the 2nd grade classes reached that magical number, that promising “20” that beckoned them with the tantalizing scent of mystery and surprise. Actually, I think they just wanted to get a present, but who’s to say that presents aren’t as intriguing as any mystery? Anyway, when those students put on their final, 20th sticker, completing the line of red reaching all the way across the Reading Champs chart, there was celebration in the entire class, everyone clamoring for me to give those special ones their “surprise.”
It all started with a clue…which led them to another clue... “Your next clue is UNDER the bench UNDER the blackboard.” (No opportunity lost here to reinforce words learned during class!) “Now, go to the FRONT of the classroom and look BEHIND the giant ball of gas.” (We had just studied the solar system) “Finally, look IN the paper bag BETWEEN two windows.” This last clue actually happened to be quite troublesome for the kids, as there were multiple windows and the idea of a paper bag seemed to rather escape them - no matter how many times we tried emphasize the idea of a paper bag being a BAG made out of paper, they kept looking behind posters. At long last though, they somehow found their way to the bag containing their prize. And then they were further confused by pulling out a simple Tupperware. “What’s this?” Umm, open it up, love, I swear it isn’t just an empty box of plastic.
Finally, the Tupperware was opened, and happy cries arose from the sight of little jam-filled thumbprint cookies rising in stacks to the top of the container. They of course had to share with all their classmates, but I don’t think that in any way diminished the joy they felt over they discovery of their “surprise.” In fact, I think it rather gave them a sense of pride in being able to share their bounty with their friends.
And that, my friends, is why I like the classroom English library so much. Not just for the books. For the cookies!!!!!!
And if you happen to want to make those delightful little stacks of thumbprint cookies that my students discovered at the end of their literary journey, here’s the recipe!
Reading Champs thumbprint cookies
Cream: ¾ c. soft butter and ¾ c. sugar.
Add: 1 egg and 2 tsp. vanilla.
Sift together, then add: ¼ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. baking powder, ½ c. cornmeal, and 1 ½ c. flour.
Roll the dough into small balls half the size of a ping-pong ball and place fairly close on a greased cookie sheet. Make a small hole in the middle of each with your pinkie, and fill with the jam of your choice.
Bake at 350 F or 175 C until a light golden brown. Let cool a little before removing from the sheet. Then pick up a good book, some tea, a few cookies, and ENJOY!!!