March 2, 2009

Thank You, Dr. Seuss!

Today was Read Across America or as we refer to it at my school, Dr. Seuss Day. It would have been the 105th birthday of the man who gave The Cat in the Hat to generations of young readers. We celebrate this day at school with guest readers visiting classrooms to share their favorite books with students, some of whom are wearing their pajamas and resting in sleeping bags for marathon read-ins.

I love this day because I get to read aloud. I used to do this all the time when I was the Library Lady, but in the computer lab I don't have too many opportunities to share my favorite books . This year I was scheduled to read to a first grade class and a fifth grade class. For the younger students I read a fun picture book by local author, Marnie McGee, Winston the Book Wolf. It's a fun book about a wolf who loves words, and it sends a nice message to beginning readers.

For the fifth graders I selected an assortment of non-fiction books, but when I was in the shower this morning I had a brilliant idea. Maybe I could read them my recently completed short story. I have never shared my writing with anyone except my favorite first readers, Paul and Nora, and the members of various critique groups--all adults. The idea of sharing the story with its intended audience was terrifying yet oddly thrilling. I wasn't sure I would feel comfortable reading the story to the students of Room 19, but I brought along a copy of "Chalk One Up for Goliath," just in case.

After my successful performance with the first graders I decided to go for it. I explained to the class that I had been writing for a few years and I wanted to share a story with them. The kids were receptive and good listeners. I was eager to get a fifth grade response since the protagonist is a 12-year-old boy. I got some of the laughs I had hoped for as I read the first three pages and just as I was relaxing and starting to enjoy the process, a class of kindergartners arrived to share Dr. Seuss Day with their upper grade Big Buddies. I knew my story was not a good match for wiggly kinders so I stopped reading about Goliath and prepared to repeat the tale of Winston, the word-loving wolf.

I was disappointed, but as I was putting my story back in my bag, one of the fifth graders asked me a question. "That was good. Did you really write that?" I answered yes, and then she responded, "So, you're like a real author?" I couldn't quite give her an unqualified "yes" to that question ( I always think of "authors" as published writers) but I said, "Yeah, sort of." It was the best moment of the day...actually one of the best moments of my writing life so far. And to think I owe it all to Dr. Seuss!

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