a stack of letters

This week I visited my son’s third grade classroom for a special STEM story time, complete with a demonstration of the Bernulli principle and a book give-away.

The kids each got three brand new books to take home, thanks to Aerospace Industries Association and First Book.

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Mrs. Otto pointed out, “These are really nice books, new books. Some of you are holding like 50 dollars worth of books in your hands right now.”

That day my son brought home thank you letters from all his classmates (and from him). They were precious notes, every one of them. One said the experiment was awesome. A number of the letters extended an invitation for me to come to their class again. Several of them thanked me for reading So You Want to Be an Inventor. Jace got a copy of that book, and wrote, “I also like pushing buttons and toggling with levers and switches,” in the words of author Judith St George.

Sundus wrote, “I like the Wright brothers page,” which told about the accidents they survived in their test flights, apparently maintaining a good sense of humor all the while.  Many of them told me they like STEM. “When I grow up I want to become an inventor. And invent something that will change the world in a strange way,” Sabrina wrote.

I read the whole stack of letters and then I reread them. It reminded me of how well we can get to know students by reading their writing. I miss that. I hadn’t realized just how much I miss that. I was touched by the things they chose to share in their letters. Many of them were about my son:

“I’m one of Caleb’s friends.”

“Caleb is very kind and always gets his work done.”

“Caleb is always focused on his work.”

“Caleb is a good friend. His is very kind and respectful.”

“I hope Caleb gets a lot of presents! He is a very good kid. He is also very smart.”

“Caleb is very smart and athletic. I like playing soccer with the boys, and I always go against Caleb.”

“Your son can run across the gym about 35 times and I can run 46 times. Your son does pretty good in school. I see that he is into soccer like me.”

I get very few personal letters anymore, so this stack of twenty plus was a gift. I am thankful for teachers like my son’s who are working to keep the art of letter writing alive – and to those who are reinforcing the value of saying “thank you.”


the gift of story

On Sunday an acquaintance gave us a manila envelope with a spiral bound book inside:

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I was a little surprised because we don’t know Mrs. Jass that well, but I was touched that she wanted to share her photo essay with us. The story is told from the perspective of the family’s dog, which makes it engaging for my boys. It includes just enough details about the writer to keep my interest as well.

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As we read this book, my boys learned a little about life in the depression, a little bit about keeping a pet, and a little bit about the 88-year-old author, her faith and her family. We also learned a new saying, “If you hoot with the owls at night, you can’t soar with the eagles in the day.”

We were reminded that a well-told story is a gift, so we shouldn’t keep our stories to ourselves.

A bit of inspiration

William P. Young’s story is inspiring writers to keep at it. His popular book The Shack is on my ‘to read’ list.
The story also makes me interested in learning more about Windblown Media, whose mission is “to provide creative and intellectually honest literature for those seeking a renewal of love and faith.”

That’s it

Francine Prose’s book Reading Like a Writer is packed with good stuff. In her chapter on sentences, she recounts a story about a young writer who told his agent that subject matter is not that important–what he wants to write is really great sentences.

That is how I feel. Last month my sister asked me what I want to write and I waffled around the answer, trying to explain exactly what that young writer said so simply: I want to write really great sentences.