Monday, March 22, 2010

Grand Discussion #3: The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

We held our third and final Grand Discussion of the year last Thursday with about 50 or so people attending. If you've been reading Literate Lives, you know our first two discussions involved books with some pretty serious messages, so, in order to lighten things up a little bit, we chose Newbery Honor book The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg.

Clearly the book is not a laugh out loud sort of story, but it does have some entertaining and humorous parts to it. I mean, come on, that amazing pig boy part is FUNNY! or so I thought, however, about a third of our group didn't agree and found the book to be very sad. Several were also upset at the name calling and abusive treatment from the boys' uncle in the beginning. All good points, but overall, I think most of us agreed that this book was not quite as heavy as the first two choices, Bystander and Also Known as Harper.

And speaking of Also Known as Harper, an unexpected result came out of the Grand Discussion we held for the book. I think I've said before that my school is very fortunate. We have plenty of resources, supportive parents, capable students and a beautiful facility. I feel very lucky every morning I come to school and get to teach in the incredible library at Bailey Elementary. During our discussion of Also Known as Harper, my sister and the librarian from her school came to see how the whole Grand Discussion thing works with thoughts of possibly doing a similar program at their school.

The school where they teach is about the exact opposite of Bailey. While the students do amazing things both on state tests and day to day work, the surroundings are not the same and their students come from a very different background. My sister shared some things about their school and the kids, and how the book hits pretty close to home for some of her students. It was an emotional moment for all in the room and it had an impact on the parents and students attending.

I had no idea how much of an impact until the next day when I was contacted by one of the moms who told me that they would like to organize the kids into action. They wanted to take on the task of raising money to buy books for the library at my sister's school. The kids wanted to take the lead on promoting the event and they wanted to make sure that the Bailey kids understood that this money needed to come from them, not their parents, them. I was thrilled and met with a group of parents after speaking with Martha and we began planning. It's turned into more than a fund raiser, we are now talking about making this an ongoing thing, sort of making Bailey and Lincoln Elementary schools, sister schools. Each of taking care of the other in the ways that we are able. There has been talk of pen pals, and video conferencing, some sort of an exchange program and inviting kids from our sister school down for special events in the future.

Who knows where this will go from here, but it's an exciting time at Bailey as the fifth graders are wrapping up two weeks of Coins 4 Kids to raise money for the Lincoln Elementary School library. I'm looking forward to making this program grow and hopefully I'll be posting a lot more about the kids from Bailey and our sister school Lincoln Elementary!


  1. I enjoyed Homer. I found it funny at times and very saad at times. It may be my final read aloud of the year. Your school sounds like a wonderful place to be. It sounds similar to my school on some levels and like your sister's school on other levels. Our study body has Aftican Refuges that have recently arrived in Denver and the Mayor's son.

    Our parents and students have started a program called Backpacks for Kids. Each Thursday the backpacks are filled with food and sent home to families in need. It has spread to four other schools. It is amazing what kids can do.
    Have a wonderful day and thank you for letting me see a part of your day.

  2. How exciting! It's wonderful to see the impact a book can have on a group of kids. Just another reason we need to keep working so hard to make sure libraries stay open, are re-opened, and that kids have books in their hands. Thank you so much for sharing, I can't wait to hear how things turn out!

  3. I am also excited to see where this "alliance" between our buildings goes. There are so many differences between the two and yet there two important constants. Kids are kids, no matter their background. And, as teachers we always hope that we give our students, where ever they come from, positive and memorable experiences. I think this has the potential to be a really memorable event for both schools! (By the way, you know, Homer was my pick for the Newbery...)

  4. This is by far, the BEST thing to come out of the Grand Discussions. It is wonderful to see kids and adults interacting over a shared reading experience but to have this "alliance" spring up because of the compassion of kids to kids, is just beyond words. It also demonstrates how much the parents and students LOVE their librarian!