Today’s Reading Group: The yellow group (four seven year-old boys)

Their group’s reading focus: The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

A good teacher excites students by engaging them in conversation about the topic of the book pre-reading (book unseen) so this gleeful teacher set about conversing…

(Setting: round reading table. Other students are reading silently.)

Me: So, boys, let’s talk about… princesses!

(Boys look at each other sheepishly.)

Me: What do you know about princesses?

Boy 1 (the original let’s-throw-the-ol’-football-around boy type, holding his face stretched to keep it from dissolving into howling laughter): I dunno anything about princesses.

Boy 2 (confident, leader type): Princesses are locked up in a castle waiting for their true love to come to rescue them.

Boy 3 (catching on): They wear high heels.

Boy 4 (wrinkling nose but eager to give his 2-cents): They like to wear high heels.

Boy 2 (trying to set higher tone): Princesses will only marry their own type, like a prince.

Boy 3: Some princesses have to kiss a beast.

Boy 4: or an ugly thing like a frog.

Boy 1 (face still stretched into submission): They always dance.

Boy 2 (working his way to Harvard): Sometimes witches try to stop princesses from their true love but they still get their true love. And sometimes witches turn themselves into a princess but a prince will only marry a TRUE princess.

Me: What do they look like?

Boys (popcorning [teacher term] answers): lots of make-up, shiny shoes, wear lots of jewelery (Boy 3 emphatically corrects: Not ALL princesses wear LOTS of jewelery. They have lots but some use SOME of it), have curly hair (light brown, blond), earrings, small, tall.

Me: Can princesses do anything?

Boys (popcorning): They can become a queen, turn into a witch/frog, can kiss people to turn them normal, can marry handsome princes, have different hairstyles.

Boy 2 (now working his way to Oxford): A king is NOTHING without a queen.

Boy 3 (still emphatic about things, next stop: Law School): But we’re not talking about queens here.

(Now they’re really getting into the topic.)

Me: So what’s the difference between regular girls and princesses?

Boy 1 (face relaxed now, amazed topic is so interesting): Well, they don’t wear crowns. Regular girls don’t wear them.

Boy 4: They don’t wear high heels.

Boy 3: Actually they do wear high heels. My mom has high heels.

Boy 4: Well, they don’t wear sparkly ones.

Boy 3: My mom does.

Boy 4: Okay, my mom does too.

Boy 2: But they don’t wear sparkly, shiny, magic ones like princesses do.

Me: What do regular girls do that princesses don’t?

(Now all “regular” girls in the class have their ears tilted this way, one eye on the boys.)

Boy 2: Regular girls can do more.

Boy 1: Like they punch!

Boy 3: Yeah, they punch! And they karate chop like this (does a pretend karate chop in the air and then rubs his eye).

(Other 3 boys rub their own eye/arm/leg in memory of encounters with “regular” girls.)

Boy 4: They can drive.

Boy 1: They can climb stairs.

Boy 2: So they’re not stuck in a locked tower because they can climb out.

Me: So who do you like better?

All 4 Boys together and emphatically: Regular girls!

Boy 2: Of course.

(“Regular” girls smile at each other.)