For many, many weeks now the boys have been bringing books in to share with each other. It has become a daily ritual for them, as you have probably noticed in the pictures from each week. They go out into the hallway and pile on the pillows with one, or several books, usually about star wars, legos, and/or ninjago. These themes and characters have become a common culture for the group, a shared mythology.
In previous years it has been Ninja Turtles, Pokemon, Transformers, and Star Wars, Greek myths and fairytales. There have been many incarnations of superheroes. Who doesn't love stories of trials and triumph, power, magic, make-believe, fear, good and evil? Every year we see it in one form or another because these myths explore the big themes children wrestle with: good and evil, power and vulnerability, danger and safety, heroes and villains, strength and weakness, challenge, growth, and transformation. Maybe making sense of all these things, both symbolically in fiction, and in our real world, is the beginning of their own hero's journey.
Although we sometimes worry that the commercialization of these stories may lead to scripted play, we want to provide an environment where children can process their questions within the framework that captivates and makes sense to them. Their careful study of these books, their loud and active role playing, and their studio work (representing what they know and theorize) are all methods to understand these big issues. Having a shared mythology with other children, regardless of the origin, gives them a sense of belonging and community. And having other children to process the story with, also helps them co-construct a shared understanding of the larger, real-life issues that these myths represent.
Just as the characters in these stories each have their roles and their trials and traits, the children in the Meadow Room find their place within the group. Micah has found his way to a central place using these books. Often pre-readers will memorize the words of a story and then, using the pictures as cues, will learn to recite the story from memory. This is one of the early stages of learning to read. The other children are very compelled by Micah "reading" the stories that they just can't get enough of. His ability also adds to the group's independence. Children at this age usually enjoy a little more separation from the teachers, which is why the physical layout of our room works so well for this age children. Micah's ability to read to the group takes this independence one step farther. The other day as I was listening to them when they were all crowded together, Micah had a book that he said he couldn't read yet and so I offered to read it for them, but they said no. This was so interesting since in most circumstances they love to be read to. I took that to mean that this was their space, like a fort where grown-ups don't intrude, or maybe it is their story and I am outside of the culture. Maybe they are feeling strong and confident; becoming the heroes of their own story. The books bring power to real life in many ways it seems.