I traveled along the coastline for #WorldReadAloudDay yesterday. I had all of my ducks in a row, or so I thought. Every class I scheduled had their own time slot, I didn’t double book anyone… In just 7 virtual meetings, I visited with at least 10 different classes totaling an unknown number of students. I’d give it an educated guess of at least 150 students between them all. They were from Colombia (South America), New Jersey, Massachusetts, Texas and New York City, NY.
I had the names of the teachers and schools, virtual meeting links and which book they wanted to read through all listed out ready for the day to begin bright and early at 8 a.m. I kept my favorite water bottle and comfy socks handy and set up my reading area upstairs away from our own children who are still remote learning. There were a few things I didn’t account for ahead of time like nerves, internet troubles and emotions!
So. Here’s 3 things I learned from #WorldReadAloudDay2021:
- Always prepare for the unexpected. Just go with it. Don’t think your internet will be a problem? Prepare anyway. Don’t think you’re going to need tissues? Keep them nearby. I promise you, something will happen that you don’t expect. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 😉
- Authors have the opportunity to witness a first in the lives of any of these students. In one of my meetings, a school administrator popped on to the call to say a few words. He thanked me for my time, greeted the students and wished them a Happy Black History Month and Happy World Read Aloud Day. Tying the two together, he said: “There once was a time when blacks were not allowed to read.” *mic drop* Woah. I had learned this in school myself, but this may have been the first time some of these young students had heard of this piece of our history. He’s absolutely right, of course. Slaves were not allowed to read, nor were they allowed to be taught how to read. They were not to be educated for fear they would be liberated from their chains. He emphasized to the students that they should take every opportunity they have to read something and that they should not take the freedom to read and be educated for granted. To be a fly on the wall for that brief motivational encounter was humbling. I was honored to be there in that moment.
- Big emotions come in small sizes. Another session took a turn I wasn’t expecting. It was with a group of younger students in the 2nd to 4th grade range. We read through The Music Man: Our Rootin’, Tootin’ Hero and they acknowledged (on their own) that my grandfather had passed away. And, of course, I said, “Yes, that’s right.” And the responses that followed blew me away. Several mentioned that some of their loved ones had also passed away and one said: “It made me sad. How did it make you feel? Sad, or mad, or…” and the list went on. And so while I collected my thoughts on that one, I thanked him for his openness and willingness to share his thoughts with us. I told him that at first I wasn’t sure what to think, to be honest. I was sad. At one point, I was mad. I was all kinds of things and that was okay. It’s important for us to sit with our emotions sometimes and sort them out. And, it’s just as important to have people who support us and things that make us happy. I again thanked him for his willingness to chat and expressed appreciation for the school environment that group had cultivated. I was really surprised by this response and we tried to move the conversation in a different direction quickly. But, it was really awesome that the teachers allowed the conversation to occur naturally, giving this student a chance to understand himself better. The truth is: we don’t HAVE to be vulnerable when we engage with others. Saying, “I don’t feel comfortable with answering that question,” is acceptable. But, if possible, having that vulnerability with the students can help them in ways we may not be able to imagine.
What an amazing World Read Aloud Day. I am grateful beyond words for the opportunity to visit with these classrooms. It’s special to be invited into their space. To the classes I visited: Thank you for impacting my life, too!
Are you interested in an author visit with me? Send me an email!