This afternoon I visited Governor Pothier Elementary School in Woonsocket with other RI children’s book authors. We were given the opportunity to share our writing experiences with students from the school. Some of the questions the first graders posed included: How did you become authors? When did you know you wanted to write a book? Where do the pictures come from in your stories? Did any of us intend to write another book? What could they do if they were interested in writing?
I prefaced my first answer with a question of my own. “How old do you think I am?” Hands immediately shot up. The teachers and parents in the back gasped audibly. I reassured them,”No, no. It’s ok. I won’t mind if they guess too high,” and pointed to a boy who looked me straight in the eye and said, “Thirty-nine”. Chuckles and sighs of relief issued forth from the adults. A second child contributed an estimate – “twenty-two”; a third – “thirty-four”. I was smitten with this group. (Not enough to return to the classroom full time, but I was definitely going to volunteer to read with them at some later date.) After a few more low balls, one student did get close with “Fifty”. When I informed them I was sixty-six and had just published my very first book, they looked at me in amazement. I told them that meant they could do anything they wanted. “If you keep reading books and if you begin writing stories now, just think how many books you will have authored by the time you’re sixty-six.” Their heads nodded in unison and I could hear the cogs turning inside.
As I looked out on their attentive faces, their curiosity and enthusiasm reminded me of ZuZu and her friend Nick. It reaffirmed the feelings I’d had as I faced my high school classes each day. Kids are great. We need only to figure out how to tap into the unlimited potential each child holds inside. I can’t wait to get my first invitation to read from A Berkshire Tale with a class. Reading with children is an investment. We need to make the time.. Tomorrow, Saturday, May 2nd is Independent Bookstore Day. Take a child to your local bookstore and buy a book to read together. It will make a difference.