Sunday, February 7, 2010

Outside the Book

JANICE:  There are times when an author needs to get outside the book and into a school with her readers. What better place than Bradfield Elementary in Highland Park ISD? And what better grade than fourth? The amazing team of teachers used A Paradise Called Texas and the sequels, Willow Creek Home and Spirit of Iron in depth. In fact the children know my books better than I remember!

Fourth graders in Texas (and perhaps elsewhere) study techniques of writing. When I visit a classroom I am amazed at what they are learning and think I should go back to fourth grade. At Bradfield one assignment was to write a letter as if you were the main character, Mina, who immigrates to Texas in 1845. She is writing to her grandfather back in Germany. Here is what Jillian wrote in part, and I quote with her permission:
"Dear Opa,
Our new life in Texas is good, but some sad things occured. We have a wonderful log house and a beautiful garden. Also we made peace with the Indians and go to a nice school under some fine trees. Papa married a kind woman named Lisette because Mama died from a sickness called pneumonia. She said that she wanted to fly up to heaven with the seagulls, and I guess that her wish came true.
Jillian's letter made a lump in my throat just like when I wrote about Mama's dying. That scene is a favorite with readers. Why? Because it makes them feel an intense emotion. Isn't that one reason we read?

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