Friday, October 23, 2009

Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind

Recently, my friend Myra connected me with the opportunity to review the following book.

It was a no-brainer decision on my part. After all, I'm the mom of a current third grader and have three older ones who have already made it through their year of learning cursive, dissecting crayfish and taking part in the wax museum presentation. For full disclosure, here's how the review works. I receive the book for free, read it and then write a review; any review that I want. I could say this book would serve its best purpose by leveling a wobbly coffee table. I also receive no further endorsements or payment for review. I'm making this all clear upfront because I want you to know I'm not biased when I say this is a cool book.

I received the book last Friday. I was in between projects when it arrived (aka looking for a way to put off doing more laundry), so I thought I'd check it out for a bit. The chapters of the book are divided into the months of the school year, so I thought I'd just finish September. Then I figured it wouldn't hurt to peek into October. About mid-way through January, I gave up any pretense and knew I wouldn't be going anywhere until I finished it.

As I said this is my fourth year of having a child that is in third grade. I've seen much from a parent's perspective. I've cajoled sullen children into finishing their reading time. I went to parent-teacher conferences to discover that my son had four winter coats shoved into his locker. (He's the third of four. He forgot his coat, his older brother's old coat, his oldest brother's old coat, and his old coat.) I've even had to deflect a kickball coming at my head after returning from a field trip.

This book is written by a third grade teacher about third grade, about teaching and about kids. Since this is not an official school assignment, I will let the author sum it up for me "when children see their teacher burst out laughing or fight back tears while reading a book-they witness two of reading's greatest rewards". I experienced both of these greatest rewards while reading this book. Except that I just grabbed for a tissue instead of fighting tears and I laughed so much my kids would say, "What's funny this time?" It's a warm book, without being overly sentimental and written with a seemingly effortless engaging style. (The guy engages eight and nine year olds for a living. He definitely has skills.)

I remember a few summers ago when my son ran into his elementary school principal at the fair. It completely threw him. I mean the principal. in the summer. at a fair. Do principals really exist outside of school? Same theory with teachers, which is another aspect of this book that I liked. The reality of a teacher as a person. (It was actually reassuring to know that teachers can have messy desks too. They're always clean at parent-teacher conferences, so I just figured that neat desk 101 must have been a requirement for graduation.)

Bottom line is if you've ever a)taught an elementary student b) had an elementary student c) loved someone who was in elementary student or d) like books that are well-written, funny and engaging; than you should to look into this one. You won't regret it and I guarantee you won't use it to prop up a coffee table.

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