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Being in quarantine has meant lots of changes for most of us, and in some cases, opportunities have arisen that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. Such was the case with the 3rd grade’s reading curriculum.

Every year, as part of our character study, we read Kate DiCamillo’s, Because of Winn-Dixie. We think deeply about the characters and feel as though we know them by the end of the book.  Our read-alouds and discussions are a beloved time of day.

This year when we began distance learning, we did not want to lose that special time with our class, and we wanted to raise their level of thinking as readers by doing a second DiCamillo read aloud, The Tale of Despereaux. This allowed us the opportunity not only to compare and contrast the characters in the two books, but also to think more deeply about the author’s craft.

 Our read-alouds during distance learning happened during closing circle. Most days, as we closed the book after reading that day’s chapters, students were heard shouting, “Nooooo…. Don’t stop! Please read more!” as we ended our reading and told them to come back the next day for more.

Just as we were coming to the end of our second book, we had the opportunity to attend a special live webinar by Kate DiCamillo celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publishing of Because of Winn- Dixie.  She talked all about her first novel, Because of Winn-Dixie.  Students were given the opportunity to submit questions ahead of time.  Within the first 10 minutes we were excited to hear, “And the next question comes from the third graders at Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood, NJ…”

Ms. DiCamillo shared about her writing process, the over 400 rejection letters she received and the thinking behind choices she made in her book.  She offered wonderful words of wisdom such as, “Keep your eyes, ears and minds open,” “You have to write the story of your heart,” and “Things don’t always go the way we want them to go, but it doesn’t mean it’s not okay.”