A few months ago, my class celebrated World Read Aloud Day. And even though one of my students announced that every day in our class is World Read Aloud Day, we took some time to enjoy it. One of our special activities was a Skype visit with a fantastic author, Nancy Churnin. At the time, Churnin had published three picture book biographies. One more was in the works, and luckily I found it in a local bookstore this past weekend.
So today I read aloud Irving Berlin, The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing, by Nancy Churnin. And it was fabulous. Great read. Lots of information. I enjoyed it, and my students enjoyed it too. But what I realized as I read it through the second time for my afternoon class, is that we enjoyed it differently.
What I realized, once again, is that they are young. So very, very young. And I am not. So very, very not.
And that’s okay. It really is. It’s okay that when I got to the part about Kate Smith singing God Bless America, I didn’t even bother asking if her name meant anything to them. Beyonce, they’d know for sure. Kate Smith, not so much.
And it’s okay that when I mentioned Judy Garland, that name didn’t ring a bell either. On the upside, they had heard of the Wizard of Oz. Hey, they even knew that the name of the girl whose house gets blown away in the tornado is Dorothy. But the brilliant actress who played her and sang in so many other musicals that I love? No name recognition there.
It’s okay that when I told them Berlin left Russia at the turn of the century, I needed to backtrack a bit. Wait, I mean, the last turn of the century. The one before this turn of the century. Oh my god, when I think of the turn of the century, I think of the 19th into the 20th century. So, so, so not young.
The other day, it hit me that it’s almost 2020. A year after which, I will turn sixty. But who’s counting? Me, obviously. And I know it’s just a number. A big number, yes, but I don’t even teach math. So let’s be honest, why care about a number?
The truth is, I love working with little people who are so much younger than me. It’s energizing and exciting to be around them because everything is new. And yes, once in a while, I have to remind myself they’ve only been on this earth for ten years. And there is so much about it that they don’t know. So many references that they just don’t get. So much of my life experience that is merely history to them.
But unlike my own kids, they listen with interest. They’re into my stories. They like to hear about the old days. Before cell phones. Before video games. Before a century that started with the number two.
When I tell them that I used to ride my bicycle around the neighborhood alone, they find that fascinating. When I tell them I could call for my friends just by knocking at their doors, and there was no such thing as a playdate, they find that amazing. And when I tell them I used to play kick the can in the street in front of my house with whatever kids showed up that afternoon, they can’t believe that ever happened.
So, what’s the big deal if they’ve never heard of Judy Garland. Or TV dinners. Or Watergate.
Tomorrow’s another day. And I’m sure I have a book for that.