I read the first part of Danny and the Dinosaur today with a reluctant reader. While she, predictably, read each page with increased fluency and confidence, my mind wandered to the first time I "used" this now OLD book to empower a beginning reader! Long ago, Jason* was starting to read even though he did not want to be a considered a student nor a reader! He was mad at the world and sad that his dad would not ever come home from the war in Vietnam. Jason* was, however, a dinosaur expert, a fan of fantasy, and a thinker, outside of the box!
Marie*, who was unofficially my mentor teacher because she taught in the room next to mine, suggested I try Danny and the Dinosaur. Marie, who had a zillion years of experience, noticed that Jason wore dinosaur tee shirts daily and she also knew he was challenging me and my efforts to encourage him to read! Jason still had many behavioral issues, but after reading Danny and the Dinosaur, again and again and again, he began to see himself as a reader.
I don't pull Danny and the Dinosaur from the stacks often these days, even though my rewrites of this story are Teacher Pay Teacher worthy! It's possible that in future years, no one will ever pull it out of the leveled resources boxes. It is hard, on some levels, to justify using a text that refers to Indians rather than Native Americans, Eskimos rather than Inuits, and bundles rather than bags! Yet, there is something VERY empowering about those old Syd Hoff stories that makes them seem to surpass time.
So on this Tuesday, I am remembering the contributions of authors like Syd Hoff who long ago, in the 1950s, created texts that started off easier, to build confidence, and then grew more complex.When children finish that first 64 page book they feel like rock stars and their teachers breathe a sigh of relief.