Today I did something I hadn’t done in quite a while. I volunteered. The last one I did was a river/park cleanup which was mostly yanking out invasive plants that had started to take over the area. It was fun, but also tiring work. Before that, I had helped people recover from the Nashville Flood of 2010. THAT one was heart-breaking. Which is probably why, when I moved back to CA, I volunteered for nature-related opportunities.
What I did today was part of the National Education Association’s Read Across America event: http://www.nea.org/grants/886.htm. It’s a one day event, that’s actually tomorrow, March 2nd (bonus points to you if you know what special day it falls on), but some schools make it a week-long event. The company I work for decided to participate in our local elementary school’s event by having us come by and read a couple Dr. Suess books to 1st grade students.
Now, if you know me, you’ll know, speaking in front of people is just not my thing. Individuals, fine. Very small groups, fine. But more than 5 people with all eyes on me? Yeeeeeahhh, I’ll pass. But this? This was books, specifically Dr. Suess books and kids! I have a special love for Dr. Suess as my dad read his books to me every night and because of that I started reading with my dad at the tender age of 3. They were the first books I remember and it not only created a special bond between me and my dad, it also created a love of books that is just as strong today as it was back then. So naturally, before the “you-hate-public-speaking” voice had a chance, I signed the volunteer sheet and I’m so glad I did.
The kids in Mrs. Greene’s 1st grade class were so excited when I walked in. I’ll admit I was a little unsure of myself and of what to do when I first walked in, but the teacher was warm and welcoming as were the kids. I sat down in front of the class who were already seated on the floor and brought out two books: Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. I asked them which of them they wanted me to read first. Majority of hands chose Green Eggs and Ham. I asked them if they liked eating Green Eggs and Ham and to my surprise, many had tried it (the food-dyed stuff) and did really like it!
Before I began reading, Mrs. Greene told me the rules about how students had to be quiet while reading, but could ask questions or comment once I finished reading a page. Fair enough. There was only one of those instances, as the kids were just so into the books, which really made my heart swell. One child raised her hand to tell me that another kid was holding a creepy stick and for a moment, I was confused. “Are you scared,” I asked. The kids laughed and told me that’s not what the creepy stick was for. I’m still not sure what the creepy stick was for, but that’s okay.
Normally, when I speak, I do it fast. I found out today that when I was reading out loud, I was reading slowly and with enthusiasm. I’ll tell you, that’s never happened before and I found myself enjoying this whole experience. The kids loved it and were thrilled that I was leaving the books along with crayons and Dr. Suess coloring pages. Even though the whole thing lasted maybe twenty minutes, it made me very happy to see the kids really getting into the stories. I mean, who doesn’t love Dr. Suess?
I loved every minute I had with these kids and I hope I’ll have another chance to go back for another event soon. Speaking and reading to kids isn’t so bad, but now, more than ever, I’m motivated to write. It got me out of my own head and set the wheels spinning again. Who knew reading to kids would push me to get back on the writing wagon?