It was a privilege, really, to enter their world. The sight of those squirming 6-year-olds on the story rug was a very bright spot on a cold, wintry day.
It was February, Reading Month. A local television station had issued a contest for area schools, encouraging students to read, and the kindergarten classes had jumped in with both feet.
A packet had come home in a small, red backpack. “Read like crazy.” That was the upshot. “And record your minutes.”
There was, I’d noted briefly, an invitation to be guest reader for a day in an effort to pump it up and get parents involved. It was, frankly, an opportunity I’d skipped over, having been buried lately beneath an avalanche of work. Until.
Until, that is, the best salesman in the world pressed the point. When a VSP (Very Small Person) with a double crown and eyes of blue uses all that charm on you, resistance is futile. Then, when he throws a dimple in yet, waving the white flag is automatic. It just is. And that’s how I found myself breaking away from work one dreary afternoon to sit in the rocking chair with a batch of bright-eyed, wriggly kindergartners on the story rug before me.
Little Schrock had done the choosing, carefully laying out his favorite books the night before. “Hogwash” by Karma Wilson and “The Big Road Race” with the Berenstain Bears had been read many times, and to him, they never got old.
As it turned out, his friends loved them, too. “I love the Berenstain Bears!” someone, a small blond fellow with wavy hair, enthused. They sat, riveted, as Little Red, the smallest, most unlikely car, won the race. Then, with rapt attention, they listened to “Hogwash,” a delightful rhyming tale of a farmer and his dirty hogs in need of a wash.
Looking at them, I felt it. There before me, arranged in ragged rows at my feet, sat the innocence of childhood, clothed in blue jeans and T-shirts. Childlike joy all done up in ponytails and colored barrettes. Happiness crowned with a rooster tail here, an untied shoelace there.