How To Steal Winn Dixie



Some things you need to know before we get to the story. Earlier this year,  I read my students Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie. It was heavenly .We laughed, I cried, we ended the book much closer to each other than when we started. When I read aloud to them we often sit in a circle on the carpet. Most kids start sitting on their bottoms in a part of a nice neat circle. As we read the circle morphs into an awkward looking shape and a few of the kids are still sitting on their bottoms. It is a beautiful mess.

The Story

I was reading my students Barbara O’Connor’s How To Steal A Dog earlier this week. My students seem to fall harder and harder for this book as each paragraph comes and goes. We got to the part where Georgina meets the dog she wants to steal.

Here’s the text:

“What does this say?” I pulled the dog a little closer and squinted at the words engraved on the tag.

Willy, it said.

As I got to the part where Georgina reads the dog tag a silly idea came into my head. What if instead of saying Willy, I say Winn Dixie. Maybe nobody will notice.

This is what I read.

“What does this say?” I pulled the dog a little closer and squinted at the words engraved on the tag.

Winn Dixie it said.

They noticed.

Twenty-three pairs of eyes shot up. Jaws dropped. Heads shook. Hailey, the 8 year old that has read the entire Anne of Green Gables series, gave me a pity smile that said, “Terrible joke, Mr. Sharp, but I appreciate you trying.”

After a few moments of confused silence they finally spoke.

“Mr.’re joking, right?”

“Mr. Sharp, how could it be Winn-Dixie they don’t look anything alike.”

“Dude, what if this was Winn Dixie’s home before he finds Opal at the grocery story?”

“It is not Winn-Dixie.”

“Oh, Mr. Sharp.”

“What’s the dog’s real name, Mr. Sharp? Seriously. What does it say?”

This is when all the students turn their attention to the two students following along in their own copies of How To Steal a Dog.

“The Dog’s name is Willy,” one of them said.

I’m hurt. They’ve completely sold me out.

We continued reading for a few more pages falling back into the story. Worried about Georgina and her brother. Worried about Willy.


The next day we once again met at the carpet for read aloud. Our days can be a little crazy at times, but this is one appointment we never miss. Before reading I tried to convince them that maybe-just maybe Willy and Winn Dixie could be the same dog. They weren’t buying it, but a couple of students did entertain my fantasy.

We work extremely hard to plan well thought out lessons. We differentiate, we personalize learning, we give all sorts of different types of assessment, and collect all kinds of data. Those things matter, but it is the magic that happens when a bunch of book loving nerds share wonderful books together, that makes what we do the greatest profession in the world.




2 thoughts on “How To Steal Winn Dixie

  1. Cutest story I’ve heard today, Colby. You are a creative thinker. 🙂 And I’m definitely reading HOW TO STEAL A DOG now. Of course, have already read WINN DIXIE. In our new home in FL Winn Dixie it’s the nearest grocery!


  2. Oh my, such true, true words. I feel that same magic every day but today it was so powerful that I longed for just one other adult to witness what I experienced while reading aloud Henry’s Freedom Box. The silence was the deepest quiet I’ve ever experience. All 20 of us become one, so cohesively absorbed in Henry’s story. Honestly, what could be more magical?


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