“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go.” — Dr. Seuss
The last time I was asked to read to a class, it was in front of a group of middle schoolers about a year or so ago, and my choice was a chapter from “To Kill A Mockingbird.” It was Harper Lee’s birthday, after all.
The meaning was completely lost, and I completely bombed.
But I learned a valuable lesson that day. The right book makes all the difference in the world.
Don’t get me wrong. I know a literary masterpiece when I see it. I have an English degree, for crying out loud. “To Kill A Mockingbird” would be the perfect reading choice in front of a group of attorneys or Southern literature lovers or a number of groups other than middle schoolers.
It just wasn’t a good choice. Lesson learned.
So when Castle Heights Elementary School librarian Cindy Sharp invited “community celebrities,” along with myself, to Read To Me Day on Wednesday at the school, redemption was the only thing on my mind.
I arrived at the library early to the smell of coffee, warm glazed doughnuts and fresh fruit after signing tardy slips in the office for my oldest two children. It happens sometimes, but according to official school records, we remain far from truant.
Stone greeted me with a smile, and quickly asked about my choice of book. After weeks of pondering, deliberating and coming up with little, all of a sudden it hit me like a ton of…books.
“Can you direct me to the Seuss section?” I asked the librarian.
Yes, Dr. Seuss. But not just any old Seuss book. Horton doesn’t even have the backbone for this reading. The Cat in the Hat…please. Not even the Grinch’s tale of transformation from meanness to big-heartedness would hold a candle to the Seuss tale that came to mind that faithful Wednesday morning.
After a quick search, my book of choice seemed to jump right off the shelf into my hands. The last time I had read “Oh the Places You’ll Go” was the time I graduated from high school, unfortunately. After celebrating my 37th birthday Monday, I think I will make a new tradition of reading the book every year in celebration. But I digress.
My first stop on the reading trail was my son’s class and his fellow fifth-graders. After a brief introduction, I started reading. Occasionally I was inspired to see all the wide-eyed students staring back at me intently as my voice gained inflection with the arrival of each exclamation point.
I answered questions and was whisked away to my second of two stops on the day, my daughter’s fourth-grade class.
Much the same reception was found as I described my work in newspapers. You see, I was more familiar with having previously spoken to the fifth-graders on my work as an editor in an effort to inspire future readers and writers.
So it was my first meeting with many of the fourth-graders. I was quickly impressed when one student eagerly pointed out my use of a metaphor.
On a side note, I thought metaphor was the name of a Transformer in fourth-grade.
I was equally impressed to find the class sent a collection of handmade thank-you cards home with my daughter. The stack of bright-colored construction paper, heart-shaped notes and Crayola-sponsored words of thanks would brighten even the gloomiest of days.
One note in particular stood out from the crowd as a sentiment I will cherish for days to come. It was from Caty, who said, “I love reading the comments about things in the newspaper and you make it happen.”
Now if that doesn’t give inspiration to reading, I’m not sure anything will.
My hat’s off to Caty and the rest of the students, faculty and administration at Castle Heights Elementary School and all the schools in Lebanon and Wilson County that hold similar events. You really make reading fun-damental.