Monday, July 2, 2012

Tiny chairs and big imaginations: school visits

A few weeks ago, I visited a bunch of schools during a trip to New York. I don't have much extra time in my schedule for school visits, but when I do, I sure LOVE them. They are fun and inspiring and humbling. Plus, I often receive the most amazing gifts, like these works of art:

I've introduced an imaginary character into my school presentations. I'm always amazed and heartened to witness the eagerness of young children to engage in silliness and shenanigans. The character makes appearances in my talk, but overall, he is somewhat mysterious. He plays two roles. One, he is the crazy guy. I have a hard time being the clown, but I'm always happy to have one next to me. Two, he stirs the students' imaginations. At the end of my presentations, many of the questions are about the character; this makes me very happy. I encourage the children to come up with their own answers to these questions and to write their own stories. The importance of including magic, mystery, and wonder in children's lives can't be overrated.

One school asked me to speak about reading and literacy for an annual event. I found it very difficult to find the right words. My beliefs about reading and its value are so deep and go so far back in my life, that they are almost beyond verbal. They just ARE. In much the same way that I know I need to eat, breathe, move and sleep to stay alive, I know that I need to read. Finding words -- especially the right words for elementary children -- was a good challenge. Here's an excerpt:

"Every time I open a book, it’s like opening a gift. I like to think of it this way: for each of us, there is a perfect book out there, just waiting to be discovered. A perfect book that’s so perfectly perfect, it will change your life. It will make you see the world in a new way. And once you’ve read one perfect book, you understand just how much fun and joy is waiting for you inside other books. You’ll read and read. Your world will get bigger and bigger until you know everything. And once that happens, you will solve all of the world’s problems and figure out how to live on the moon or maybe mars and most importantly, you’ll get to choose your own bedtime. Which will probably be early, so you can snuggle in and read more books."

Simultaneous to all of this focus on books and reading in my professional life, my eldest daughter has begun to read. Voraciously. And I am witnessing the birth of a reader from a whole new perspective -- that of a parent. We've hit a couple of new milestones in the past month:
1. I'm starting to witness reading related injuries, i.e. walking into doors because her nose is buried in a book.
2. She's pronouncing words incorrectly because she's never heard them, she's only read them. My favorite instance of this happened recently when she announced at the dinner table, "I'm surrounded by a bunch of dwebs."

Needless to say, both of these things make me ooze with pride.

I'll be at Children's Book World and Mrs. Nelson's in LA soon. See this post for details!

2 comments:

Elizabeth Rose Stanton said...

How magical your school visits sound! And congrats on your reader :)

Jane said...

A wonderful post Bethanie and I am so delighted that you can stimulate these children to read. I smiled at the reading related injuries to your daughter...how delightful. You should be proud ;0)
Jane x