What a Grandma Learned from a Second Grade Book Group

  1. Just because I am old, or just because I am a teacher, or both, I do not automatically command respect. Don has no trouble telling me he thinks he can pronounce or define words better than I can. This has been surprising to me. We live in a pretty affluent California suburb and all of these kids have moms and dads who are present and paying attention. The kids themselves have minimal attention spans. If we were sitting around a table or reading in a circle at physical school, would this be different?
  2. From the time I started reading adult novels or studying non-fiction in high school, I have paid no attention to children’s books. I have assumed that they were beneath me. Now I read the Childrens Book section of the New York Times Book Review every Sunday. I’ve found that there are quite a few books I’ve put on my own reading list. Children’s books deal with race, politics, economics, gender identification, and domestic abuse. It is by no means all Dick, Jane and Spot anymore.
  3. I’ve congratulated myself about being good at facilitation since the last decade of my corporate career. I was responsible for ongoing learning in those companies — about leadership mostly, but also about personal growth. Others told me I was good at it. I need to reassess this in terms of second graders. It is not always clear to me how to engage them or what lines to draw where discipline is concerned. Is it OK for me to email Pedro’s mother and ask her to keep little sister out of the room when Pedro is in book group? I don’t know.
  4. I started this mostly as a favor to Ellen, my step-daughter. I thought it would be fun. I’ve tried other new things for fun during the pandemic. This seemed an easy opportunity and a way to have a different relationship with Grace, maybe a deeper one. It has turned out to be a lot more work than I expected. I’ve spent time before and after the actual once-a-week meetings reading, noting new words I didn’t think they knew, forming questions to ask like: what is a leprechaun, what is the word that describes giving human characteristics to dogs and pigs, who were the Black Panthers? The three high level readers do not necessarily appreciate me or what I want to add to their reading comprehension. So far they tolerate me and my queries. I can live with this. I’m not a quitter. But I have to say that it is less the highlight of my week than I thought it might be when we began.



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Sara Orem

Sara Orem


Sara speaks about and facilitates workshops for older adults about vitality in the aging process . See more about Sara at www.saraorem.com.