Every year, reading is celebrated at Mary Collins School in Petaluma the first Wednesday after Labor Day. Parents pitch in. They bring blankets to spread out on the lawn and read with their children. The kids bring books from home, their classroom, or the school library. I was honored to be invited to participate a second year and read my two children’s gardening books to 90 4/5 grade students and newest one to 60 K/1 students. Four other writer friends from our association, the Redwood Writers, also participated. My two books, Mrs. Feeny and the Grubby Garden Gang and Zack’s Zany Zucchiniland, are meant for mostly grades K-3. Last year I read Mrs. Feeny, and they loved it. This year I read Zack–same reaction. One comment from a 1st grader: “I like the way you made the streets go down from Z to A.” She got it–and after my reading the names of only five streets. That little girl has good listening skills! I thought about how 90 4th and 5th graders would react. After all, both books are a bit young for these accomplished readers. So, I read the first 5-6 pages of each book and stopped with Mrs. Feeny saying, “You’ll see . . .” and Zack saying, “I wonder what he meant by watch out?” The collective and very audible sound both times was “Awwww. What happens?” But then I switched to the process of writing, working with an illustrator, and publishing. The students were fascinated, and of course four ran up after the session to show me the books they are writing and illustrating. One little girl was kind enough to tell me that I should work on my stick figures a bit more and that some day I could even illustrate my own book with them. Hmmm, I
don’t think so. Quite the tactful young lady. But when I showed the kids the mock-up I’d made for my illustrator, they were able to understand the sense of my awkward stick figures. Maybe there’s hope . . . . Another young man said, “I love meeting a real live author.” Yup! We also had the opportunity to offer our books for sale during recess and lunch period when everyone bought lunch from the salad bar and ate out on their blankets. It was a gratifying day, an inspiring day. There is nothing like having 60 or 90 children sitting cross-legged on the floor, quietly, and actually listening to one’s reading, rapt! So, I went home and wrote another book.