Saturday, March 11, 2017

Three Reminders from Middle Grade Readers

by Jody Feldman


I was inspired to start writing this from a hotel room in Dallas, a few days ahead of posting, three-quarters through a week of school visits. Even now, even still, after countless presentations, I get so impressed by the enthusiasm, the intelligence, and especially the passion of the students and their teachers. Hoping to spread the smiles I’ve carried back home, I bring you three of the many reminders from this past week.

1. Kids love their facts. Do you remember the precocious boy in Jerry Maguire who continually spouted trivia, the most notable about the human head weighing 8 pounds? I’ve decided, middle grade readers could talk all day about strange and wonderfully random facts they’ve happened to learn. Just ask. It was early into my new workshop (Write What You Know) when I stopped to let them share something that they knew. I wish I’d written down all the facts, from the ability of frogs’ eyes to the state of our seafood supply to it being 9:54 a.m. If I’d let them, they could have filled my entire presentation just by sharing their facts. My takeaway? More random facts in my books. Not to the point of awkwardness or obnoxiousness, but as the plot and the characters deem it appropriate.

2. Kids can be fearless. While I was at an all-boys school (my first! and hopefully not my last), I was privileged to sit in on an annual celebration to add a new honoree on their Leadership Wall, joining the likes of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Mother Theresa. When I heard it was Malala Yousafzai, I was first struck by the coincidence (and teachers confirmed it was coincidence) that she would be honored on International Women’s Day. But what overshadowed this, in the very best of ways, was how poised and articulate these four young men were in presenting an overview of Malala’s life, her bravery, and her worldwide impact. These were elementary school students standing behind a podium on a daunting stage in a darkened auditorium with spotlights on them, presenting to a large audience of students, teachers, and parents. (To see a snippet of one of them, go to the March 8, 2017 post here.) Not only did each speak with such poise and elegance (and for five or more minutes apiece), each, himself, wrote the meaningful and awe-inspiring words he spoke. My takeaway: remember, never underestimate the abilities of children.

3. Kids who have graduated to *cool* are still kids inside. The 7th graders sauntered into the library, like maybe they were too cool for an author visit. My presentation is fairly interactive, but I knew from experience to go slowly on that with this age group. Finally, after a participatory bit (raise your hand if this is true; or now, if it’s false), there came a point where I tested the waters. “Who wants to tell me...” One hand crept up. Then a second. And within minutes, it was like the room breathed. At the end, we ran out of time long before they ran out of questions. Even after they were told to go back to class, several rushed up to ask something anyway; several more (including a few girls who seemed they may have been among the coolest), came up to thank me or to tell me they loved my books. My takeaway: there are more fans of all ages out there than you might know.

6 comments:

  1. I love this Jody! I've always been amazed and humbled by the knowledge and enthusiasm of the middle school population. LOVE the idea of asking students what they know...I'm going to have to try that at one of my author visits. I'll keep you posted on the results.

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    1. It worked out great, Darlene. They're so smart. And please do.

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  2. Thanks for sharing these nuggets! Have fun with your research.

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    1. Re: the research. I feel a little evil :)

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  3. Yay fir random facts! And yay for inspirational kids!

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  4. You know, that's so true about kids and facts. They take such pride in knowing something you don't!

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