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My report from the field is about my experience reading with children at St. Andrew’s School in Richmond, VA. The very first day I went to St. Andrews, I was paired with two young girls–one a second grader, the other a third grader. Both girls were little giggle-boxes and bursting with excitement. I hoped the small loft room we were in could contain all of the energy that seemed to radiate from my group and expand toward the outer walls of the room. Daylight savings had just ended, so at 5:00pm, it was already fairly dim in the room, so we used flashlights to help us read. I was not sure if the flashlight was really to help us see the pages of the oversized book, that was at least as tall as the second grade girl, or if it was just to add to the magic of the experience. Either way, it worked out great. The girls took turns reading one page each and passing the flashlight between turns.
The book was called No, No, Titus! by Claire Masurel , Shari Halpern , Diego Lasconi. The story was about a puppy named Titus who arrives on a farm that will be his new home. However, Titus cannot figure out what it is that he is actually supposed to do on the farm. He tries to go to school with the children, chase mice, lay eggs, milk the cows, and plow the fields–but all he hears is “No, no, Titus! Dogs don’t ______.” Poor Titus is so confused. What IS it that dogs do? His questions are soon answered when one night a fox sneaks on to farm, sure to wreak havoc in the henhouse. Brave little Titus chases away the fox and saves the day. The farmer is so proud. Titus had finally found his purpose on the farm.
However, the funniest part of the whole experience was that whenever the name “Titus” was encountered, one of the girls always pronounced it [tit-uhs]. Despite my multiple corrections to the girl, she still continued to pronounce the name incorrectly. Hearing the name mispronounced was such a distraction to me that I could hardly concentrate on the simple plot of the story.
Then, when we read Feed, by M.T. Anderson, whenever I read the main character’s name, I could not help but pronounce Titus as [tit-uhs] in my head. Every time I read the name, I was reminded of my experience at St. Andrew’s and what a fun and inspirational time it was as I was able to see firsthand the joy that reading brings to children rather than just talking about it in class.
When I got into the car after volunteering that day, my fiancé was waiting for me. I told him the story about what [Tit-uhs] the dog and how the girl had continuously mispronounced it. As an elementary school physical education teacher, he could definitely relate and see the humor of the situation in which children often mispronounce words. I found the book at a local library and read it to him a couple of days later. We both loved the book and mispronounced Titus’s name throughout the whole story. Now it is an “inside joke” between us. Whenever one of us does something wrong, the other says “No, No, Tit-uhs!” We both laugh and remember not only the joys of learning how to read ourselves, but also the joy of seeing other children LEARN.