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.