One of my favorite days of the week is Thursday, because that's the day I volunteer in Michelle Garner's first-grade class at Whitesides Elementary. I've fallen in love with everyone in that room.

When I read to those children, they are totally absorbed. No matter how I challenge them, they meet the challenge.

One week, I read two books and asked them to figure out the way in which both books were alike. ("The Perfect Gift," by Mary Newell DePalma and "Clever Jack Takes the Cake" by Candace Fleming and G. Brian Karas)

In both books, the main character is en route to deliver a gift, but is besieged with difficulties and arrives at his/her destination with only the story of the adventures.

The students nailed it. They figured out that, in both books, the story became the gift. They're reading between the lines, understanding the unwritten concepts. This is an important aspect of comprehension and media literacy. And these kids know they're accomplishing something important. They're proud of what they're learning.

Another week, I was pontificating about the venerable old stories that come in countless versions. We had already considered "Sugar Cane: "A Caribbean Rapunzel," by Patricia Storace. (I didn't bring "Tangled," which is the Disney version.)

Then I moved on to "Cinderella." I'd brought a standard version with standard illustrations, as well as "The Egyptian Cinderella," by Shirley Climo and Ruth Heller. I also brought "Ponyella" by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans.

Since we didn't have time to read all three, the children voted for their top two. I shouldn't have been surprised when "Ponyella," the Disney/Hyperion version, was their top choice.

The children enjoyed the book and could easily find the Cinderella story told through horses. Disney is a powerful juggernaut that is inextricably a part of childhood.

I don't recommend resisting or expunging Disney, but I strongly recommend healthy doses of non-Disney.

Garner's class listened carefully to "The Egyptian Cinderella" and was fascinated to learn that this story had existed in Egypt 2,000 years ago. "Ponyella" has her place, but she can't match that!

Have you read to a child today?

Contact Fran Hawk at franbooks@yahoo.com.