“I couldn’t stop thinking about that read aloud.”
“Me too. I thought about it all night.”
“It was a moment. That’s what literacy is all about.”
This was the exchange with a fourth grade teacher after a read aloud in her classroom.
I’m not a basketball fan. I don’t follow sports. When my sports obsessed husband texted to tell me that Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash, I’ll be honest, I had to Google to get an image of this man. Of course, once I saw him, I recognized him.
After that, there was no escaping the news and the stories. I happened to click on a link to the animated version of Kobe’s poem, Dear Basketball. I had never heard of it before, but was moved and overcome with emotion. I thought about sharing it with teachers, but didn’t.
In the days that followed, our principal shared the link to the video with our 3-5 teachers. I followed up about a recent workshop I went to and how we could use the video for a read aloud if anyone was interested.
One teacher, Jess, replied. She had a lot of basketball fans in her class and she thought this would be inspiring for them.
So I made a rough plan and showed up at our scheduled time. While I had planned the read aloud work, I hadn’t necessarily thought of how to launch this work.
I was kind of surprised by what came out. I told the kids that our words can be a gift and sometimes our words can inspire others and turn into other really beautiful things. I told them about Kobe’s poem and then the video.
They were hooked.
We read and reread the video, stopping to discuss traits. The kids were on fire using words like driven, passionate, determined, and realistic to describe Kobe’s character. They were clued in, picking up the smallest details to support their thinking. They could have talked forever, yet we cut it off while the energy was still high.
As we wrapped up, Jess and I talked about even more ways we could use the video and the poem. Kids could compare the techniques from just the written poem to those in the video. They could also talk about theme… which we hadn’t touched yet.
Bigger than all of that, this felt like a moment, an experience, that brought us all together. Basketball fans or not. Kobe fans or not. We were all saddened by the news and the tragedy that this crash brought. We worked through all of that together through literacy, in a moment that rallied us together. We did some important heart work.
Our words can have an impact. They can be really beautiful on their own. They can become something really beautiful. They can also create really beautiful moments.