Yesterday one of our guest teachers (who’s here so often she’s more like family) greeted me, schedule in hand.
“Morning!” I chirped. “Where are you today?”
“Second grade,” she replied. “If you aren’t busy you can come visit us,” she added hopefully.
“”Do you mean it? I could come by and read.”
At this point she showed me her schedule and told me I could come here, here, here, or during the entire math block.We agreed to a time after lunch and off we each went.
I arrived to the second grade class with my cup of tea and two books under my arm. One was a gorgeously illustrated Water Princess by Susan Verde and Peter Reynolds (of Ish fame). The other was a stack of printer paper folded in half, held together by binder clips (minus the silver parts). I offered a choice.
“Readers,” I began, “I brought two books today. One is by an author and illustrator I know we love. You all just celebrated Dot Day recently. The other one,” I held up the handmade book. “Well I have to be very brave to share this one. You see, I wrote it this summer. I thought maybe, today you could listen to just a little it of it like you were my writing partner.”
I paused and watched their little faces as they took in what I’d said.
A hand went up.
“Do you mean you wrote a whole book?”
“Yes, I did. And I was thinking that it might be the kind of book that second graders would enjoy, but I was also hoping maybe you’d make some suggestions for how to make it better.”
It wasn’t unanimous, but the class voted to hear the first chapter of Will’s World- Capture the Flag. I took a sip of tea and began to read in my most animated storyteller’s voice.
There were times as I surreptitiously watched them between glances at the pages that I thought it was a flop. Eyebrows furrowed over unfamiliar vocabulary, but then smoothed out when a character explained his big word.
I held my breath after I finished the final words of the first chapter.
“So readers, remember when I asked you to be my writing partner? Would you please turn to the person next to you and tell them what you’re thinking about this book so far?”
Bodies turned to talk. Heads leaned close to one another. And voices rose energetically. I crept around the carpet and listened in.
“I really want to know what’s going to happen,” one boy told his partner.
“I don’t really like it that much,” another shared honestly. (I’m not going to lie, that one hurt a little in the soft spot where my courage had been hanging on.)
As I sat back in the rocking chair, I asked for a couple friends to share.
“This should be a whole series!” said one.
“Well I did start writing a second book about Will and his friends.”
“You should add some pictures to it,” added another.
“That’s a great idea. I was thinking maybe it needed a map of Will’s neighborhood.” A few friends offered to make pictures for it and I welcomed their offers.
“You should sell a thousand hundred copies and be famous!” enthused another.
If you’re imagining my heart swelling as I listened, you’re right.
“Well, I tell you what…If I ever become famous, I’ll put a big thank you to your class right in my book. How’s that?”
But the best part of that day was still to come.
As we were wrapping up the share one boy said, “I want to go home and write a book tonight. You’ve inspired me.”
Well that swelled my heart to bursting. You see, this is a boy who works hard to read and who doesn’t like writing.
I probably should have let them get on with math, but they urged me, so we read one more chapter. And I left the book for them to finish if they wanted to.
That was an amazing experience as a writer or as a teacher. My little writing partners were encouraging and enthusiastic. But that wasn’t the end of it.
Today the teacher across the hall from those second grade friends came to me and asked, if maybe, would I mind coming to read that to her class too?
If I inspire one more child to want to read, or to write, I’ll consider it a gift. But I’m also energized to write that sequel for them. The book’s still a little hard for most second graders to read on their own. But in just a few months they’ll be the kind of readers who can tackle chapters on their own. If they’re still interested in Will, I’d love to have more adventures to share.