An Open Letter to All Readers

For the past year and a half I’ve been a second grade reading coach with a group called, APIE. Before you think it, learning to read is not as easy as pie. It’s actually hard, fun, and rewarding work.

But speaking of pies, know what else isn’t as easy as pie—making one. Pies take hard, fun, and tasty work which you can only do if you know how to read.

Back to the PIE at hand. It stands for Austin Partners in Education. The second grade program focuses on fostering a passion for reading. It’s broken into four sections: Bluebonnet, Armadillo, Jalapeno, and Cactus. Yes, the names are strange. What can I say, this is Texas* y’all.

As bloggers, we know more than most the joys of reading. I hope this post encourages you to look up a PIE program, or any reading program, in your area. I’ll settle for giving you something to think about the next time you open a book, turn on your Kindle or Ipad, or walk into your public library.

Bluebonnet ©B. Mac' 2015
Bluebonnet ©B. Mac’ 2015

Reading’s Beautiful
It really is. I chose to volunteer as a reading coach because reading’s a necessity but it can also be a passion. And I chose second graders because I thought they would be easy and not too scary, but more on this a little later.

Bluebonnet is the first section of the year and also the easiest. The first couple of classes are set up so we can get to know one another. There’s “read aloud day,” right away which is great because those are about having fun with the stories.

It’s important to make reading fun at this age because second grade is when children develop and keep an interest in reading.

Armadillo ©B. Mac' 2015
Armadillo ©B. Mac’ 2015

Reading’s a Ball
It’s also a blast. Reading’s always been fun for me, from “Wayside School is Falling Down,” to “Matilda,” and continuing on through “The Hobbit,” and many, many more books. Reading with second graders is also way more fun than I ever thought. But more on that point a little later too.

Armadillo’s the second section of the year. For my group it was also the most fun. There was one story in particular, “The Wizard, the Fairy, and the Magic Chicken,” that elicited such comments as:

I don’t want to be the Magic Chicken. Chickens and turkeys make me sick. I can eat them but if I have to look at them, I throw up.

We all used funny voices while reading this story and yes yours truly was the one and only Magic Chicken (my wand, by the way, was a pickle on a stick—no joke).

Jalepeno ©B. Mac' 2015
Jalepeno ©B. Mac’ 2015

Reading’s Hot
It’s also hard, hard work. They’re learning to read as well as work together in supportive, helpful ways. Sometimes things go great from the get go and sometimes the get go is just gone.

How can a child be in tears at 7:45 in the morning, I ask you. Nothing’s happened yet. This, though, disproves my earlier thought, second graders are harder and scarier than I ever dreamed.

The Jalapeno section, like the other three, has nonfiction stories in it. These, in general, tend to be the hardest to get through. The kids get bored, us coaches too, but it helps to focus on any weird facts or pictures. There’s usually one or two that stand out and these get us through the end of class.

Cactus ©B. Mac' 2015
Cactus ©B. Mac’ 2015

Reading Makes You Sharp
Let me just say the students aren’t the only ones who have learned a lot this past year and a half. For one, I learned a lot about Minecraft. I still don’t know what it is but I do know Microsoft was smart to buy it. It’s all second grade boys talk about some days.

I also learned about the power of stickers. I can’t explain it but I believe in it, kind of like the power of soap.

By the end of the year, when some groups reach Cactus, everyone’s reading at a faster pace. Lessons don’t take as long so there’s more time for games.

Another fun fact I learned, hangman — the word game with a stick figure man hanging from a noose — is now called wordman. A little weird but it makes sense. Wanna know something that doesn’t make any sense, they still draw the gallows/scaffold just not the noose.

Well, this brings me back to my other earlier point. I’m having more fun than I ever imagined. I volunteered to share something I enjoy. Now I enjoy volunteering and want to share that too.

I’ll end with a question my group of totally awesome students asked me a few weeks ago. It proves my point — reading is fun.

Mr. Venom, why are you always happy?

Thanks for reading. And to the Class of 2025** keep it up, so when the time comes you can return the favor and read to me.

Illustrations by B. Mac’
© Chic Prune 2015

*The four sections are actually named after official state symbols. The bluebonnet is the official flower of Texas. The armadillo is our official mammal. The official pepper (according to Wikipedia) of the State of Texas is the jalapeno. And last, the prickly pear cactus is the official plant of Texas.

**Man do I feel old.

P.S. Venom was the closest the kids ever got to my actual name. It’s not all that close but it makes me sound like a comic book villain which is pretty awesome.


20 thoughts on “An Open Letter to All Readers

    1. you may sound like a mother but that’s only fitting since i felt like a child sometimes. i took the city bus some days and when i left my house i was like, “do i have house keys, bus money, my book.” it was quite surreal, especially so early in the morning. i haven’t ridden a bus to school since i was in my early teens!


      1. Well, I take the city bus relatively (if it rains) often (and it rains a lot here), and I always ask myself if I have the house keys! It’s a trauma lol after having left them inside several times.
        So, that makes the two of us feel like kids! I feel better now! 😉


  1. This sounds like a really worthwhile thing to do. I wouldn’t know where to start with children, but I really think that reading is something all children should be encouraged to do. Especially in today’s age of technology.


    1. i didn’t know where to start with them either. at first it was something i “forced” myself to do, to give it a try. i’m not much of a kid guy, probably why it took me a year and a half to really enjoy it. but eventually i did.

      not sure if i like kids any more than i used to but they definitely don’t frighten me as much either 😉


  2. I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed volunteering with APIE. Thank you for being a part of our program!

    I would appreciate to hear your ideas about how we can make the non-fiction stories more interesting.



    Liked by 1 person

    1. truly, it’s been my pleasure!

      i’ll give the nonfiction stories some thought. but first i did want to ask, what’s the goal of the non fiction stories – is it to teach the children facts or to teach them the difference in story telling styles (the difference between fiction and nonfiction)?

      and thanks for reading the post and reaching out.

      – i.m.


  3. Well, you left an impression with those kids over the year and half that they’re likely never going to forget. Learning to read is a big deal and the people that help you get there stick with you for the rest of your life. 🙂 Good job!


    1. well that’s so nice to hear. i hope they had fun and remember that more than anything else. though who knows maybe in the future there’ll be a slew of adults telling the tale of indian macgyver, a man who could do a lot with words.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fitting and fun! 🙂 Loved Macgyver when I was a kid. I thought it would be cool to have his “super power.” There’s so much you can do with a string, a paper clip, and a piece of tape.


      2. a great theme song helps! but yeah i was big fan of the show growing up. the family and i watched it every week and learned to do a lot with what i got!

        oh hey is the next week’s blog battle theme up already? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a lovely thing to discover about you, Mac. Volunteering and teaching the young whippersnappers how to read and play hangman–er, wordman. Hard work as it is, I’m guessing it’s hugely rewarding, and obviously one of the nicest gifts you can give any human being. The gift of learning is critical. The gift of reading is magical. A heady combination.
    Lovely post, as always.


    1. well paula, if you do let me know. it’ll make writing this post even sweeter. i wish i could take all the credit for the illustrations but i must share it with b.mac’ (she’s my sister so i don’t have a choice).


Listen up Mac'

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s