Posted by: krusty505 | August 25, 2011

The Dugout

Yesterday, one of my students was working on a reading assignment. Each assignment has a set of vocabulary words. The computer reads the word aloud to them, has them spell it and ensures they can use it in a sentence. One of my students was working on a lesson about baseball, and dugout was one of the vocabulary words. I asked him if he knew what a “real” dugout was.

He asked, “Like in baseball?”

 I said, “No. A real dugout. Poor people used to live in them back in the day. They were dug out of a hillside to save lumber because all you needed was a front, and the rest of the house was dirt.”

“No shit?”

“Yeah, no shit. I learned about them from this book, Half Broke Horses. It’s good. You should check it out when you get a chance. Oh, actually, I have a copy right here.” (We purchased a bunch of books for the students to read when they get to a certain level in the reading program we use. The principal and I figured Half Broke Horses would be a good read for the women’s program, but I personally figured most of the guys wouldn’t be all that interested in it, given that it has a female protagonist.)

So anyway, I picked up the book and read the chapter aloud about this girl growing up in West Texas and New Mexico and living in a dugout. Of course, I was reading, so I couldn’t tell if any of the guys were paying attention, and I figured they weren’t, but when I finished the chapter and looked up, they were all staring at me, wide-eyed and silent.

“Read some more,” was all I heard after a brief pause.

I read another chapter, this one about a flash-flood the main character and her younger brother and sister had survived while stranded in a cottonwood tree. As I was moving along through the chapter, I was reminded of reading portions of the book to my friends’ children last year when I visited them in Connecticut. The kids loved the book and couldn’t get enough of our bed time reading sessions, so in the back of my mind, I was thinking these hardened criminals had probably already lost interest and given up on me and Half Broke Horses.

I looked up after finishing the chapter.

“Read more.”


One more chapter, and one of the guys broke out with, “That’s a cool book!” This coming from a guy with tattoos on his face and a record as long as my left arm.

Hmmm. I guess you never know.



  1. You never know….you captivated their minds. Not only the book but I am sure it also has to do with the reader of the book. Amazing. You definitely need to weave these stories into a book dedicated to all these guys.
    Speaking of which if you ever have time to show a film “the perfect game” about a ragtag group of Mexicano boys who against all odds make it to the Little league world series and win. true story from 1957. shows what true team work and partnerships are all about. my favorite film of 2010.

    Awesome job. thanks for sharing that teachable moment!!

  2. This makes me miss my old days in the BD program. I had 3 convicted murderers come through there, but I know that treating them like they can learn makes a huge difference. You have created a safe environment, their own dug out in the concrete. You never cease to amaze me.

    • Thanks for the awesome comment!

  3. Yes, Emma & Freddy definitely lived that book. We still discuss her cooking methods. Cook. Salt to taste. I can see why your students liked it- it is totally captivating. I love the image of you reading aloud to them with their jaws hanging open. Nice work! You think my bilingual first graders would like it too?

    • I definitely do think they would love it! It’s such a great read, and the chapters are short and easy to digest, unlike the spicy bologna they serve at the jail.

  4. I love this. Reminds me of how much EVERYONE loves to be read to and of what an “art” storytelling truly is. Bravisimo, Guapo! I learn from each of your blog posts. Today I was simply watching people’s feet walking las ramblas de Barcelona in super shitty shoes, and I pictured them all walking and running BAREFOOT. And now I know what a dugout is – a real dugout. Gracias a ti, profesor. I’ve also been dying to read that book…

    • Thank you. Thank you for the kind words and thoughts. I’ll get right on that book:)

  5. Being read to is such a comforting and intimate act. I am not surprised they were so engrossed. Plus, you are an excellent reader babe! Good work.

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