I’ve started a little tradition in my small second grade classroom this fall. I read aloud a different picture book each morning and on Fridays we vote for which book we’d like to hear read again. These “Read Aloud Reruns” make Friday mornings a little more celebratory and nod to my usual, non-pandemic job in our school as a literacy specialist. Last week, the winner of our Read Aloud Rerun was unanimous – Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon by Simran Jeet Singh.
Fauja Singh’s story is remarkable. Born in Punjab, his family worried that he might never walk as his first steps didn’t happen til he was five years old. He continued to face challenges throughout his life that, with perseverance, he was able to overcome. Then he took up running at the age of 81!
Second graders were amazed at Fauja Singh’s story. On our first reading, they began to repeat the phrase, “But Fauja did not listen and Fauja did not stop.” Their eyes bulged as they watched him train for the New York Marathon at age 93 and their faces were crestfallen when he collapsed at the end. Second graders loved seeing the photo of the real Fauja Singh at the end of the book and were amazed that he is still alive!
On our second reading of this story, my students paid closer attention to Baljinder Kaur’s illustrations. They began to notice birds on many of the pages. They also noticed how the birds were gray on pages where Fauja is sad and colorful on pages when he is happier. They loved the little newspaper clippings and photographs hidden as framed pictures on the wall. The real Fauja Singh’s Foreword at the beginning of the story was also more powerful on the second read as the children now had a connection to this extraordinary figure. My students quickly calculated that indeed he is 100 years older than they are!
Fauja Singh Keeps Going will make a find addition to your collection of picture book biographies. And it’s clearly a story that gets more enjoyable with each additional read. I’d think it’s best suited to 2nd-4th graders who can appreciate a longer story with an important life lesson. Are you unfamiliar with the Sikh faith? The author, Simran Jeet Singh, is a teacher and activist in addition to being a writer. You can learn more about Sikhism in his YouTube video: What is Sikhism? and about his work at his website: simranjeetsingh.org.