Allie Kallman is a Teach for America (TFA) and Jumpstart alumna, who was introduced to Jumpstart’s Read for the Record® in 2013 while serving as a TFA corps member. Jumpstart has partnered with TFA since 2013 to bring Read for the Record to TFA classrooms across the country. In today’s blog, Allie discusses what she loves about Read for the Record, her memories of reading as a TFA corps member, and how you can get involved in the Read for the Record campaign.
The first time I participated in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record® was in 2013, when I was a Teach For America (TFA) corps member teaching in an early childhood classroom in Kansas City, MO. As I read that year’s book, Otis by Loren Long, with my class, I felt like there was something so powerful about knowing that my students were connecting to millions of other adults and children across the country. My students loved exploring the exciting story and illustrations from Otis, and the experience reinvigorated my own literacy and read-aloud planning for the classroom.
When I returned to school to study early childhood education policy in 2016, I got to work with the amazing Jumpstart team at Teachers College, Columbia University, to celebrate Read for the Record again, this time with the bright and silly book The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach. We worked with local classroom teachers and community partners to plan activities inspired by the content of the story, and we really went all out! Kids created fancy finger sandwiches, I-Spy-ed around the classroom for sandwich ingredients, and read with Jumpstart Corps members and volunteers. That day, students joyfully engaged in authentic learning experiences and built relationships with the adults in their classroom and with each other.
This year, I’ll be participating in Read for the Record by volunteering to read this year’s book, Quackers, near my new home in Virginia. Read for the Record is a program I’m passionate about, as I’m always looking for opportunities to promote a love of reading and learning in young children. Teachers (and parents!) across the country can use Read for the Record as a jumping-off point to support young children’s early literacy by using some of the strategies below:
1. Make the book a centerpiece of your day.
Before you read Quackers with your students, read it yourself and develop questions that will help them understand — and internalize — the underlying message of identity, friendship, acceptance, and fitting in. Continue this deep dive in classroom choice time and other activities. Add cat ears or duck beaks to your dramatic play area. Ask children to think about similarities and differences during morning meeting. How can this message of diversity and self-confidence come through in other parts of your day and curriculum?
2. Create and display visual reminders.
Take pictures of you and your students reading Quackers, post them at kid-friendly heights, and refer back to them throughout the following days. Keep the book out in the library area. If you’ve pulled together Quackers-related activity centers or students have spontaneously produced related work, post that around the room too! Using these visual cues can help students retain the story and, more importantly, connect the text to other experiences in their lives.
3. Share, share, share.
If you send home a parent newsletter, write to them about Read for the Record — this amazing day where their children will be sharing an experience with others across the country. Invite them to come read Quackers with the children or help out in the classroom in some other way that day.
4. Keep reading.
If your students enjoy Quackers, find other books that are similar at your school or local public library. Develop questions that help students move from simpler ideas (“Who is this? What are they doing? What happened next?”) to more challenging ones that stretch children’s brains (“By the end of the story, why does Quackers think he’s both a duck and cat?”). Share your list of related books and Quackers prompts with children’s families too, and encourage them to continue reading and talking about these themes at home!
Reading a book with children goes well beyond words on a page. It connects them to their peers, helps them develop a rich vocabulary and understanding of the world around them, and can inspire a lifelong love of learning. I’m excited to be volunteering for my fifth Read for the Record this year, and I can’t wait to celebrate this unique, inspiring experience with students again on October 19th!