So yesterday I had the privilege of being part of the annual Delray Reads Day, where community members fan out to different schools all over town and read a book to schoolchildren. Our book this year was “Interrupting Chicken” (don’t ask) and I actually ordered it beforehand to review and prepare, like I would before I interview anyone.
I do not have children. I do not know what they think about. And for all I knew, it might be a tough crowd.
So I showed up at Plumosa School of The Arts and was assigned to Mrs. Dipinto’s fourth grade class. My heart sank; I was half hoping for little tiny kids, the kind that would maybe doze off halfway through the first page, or get distracted by their own shoelaces. I was not sure what fourth grade meant but I sensed it was not looking good. Still, I was going in.
Almost before I sat down, they were all there on this little carpet thingy, looking up at me. They jostled each other and the boys wedged closer. I felt like I was an alien mutant from the outside world, sitting straight up on the teacher’s chair in a cornball work dress and heels, peering through my cheaters, scanning the faces for some sign of recognition.
And there it was. A shy smile. A hand raised. Some whispers. Everyone said “Good Morning” in one voice, and they all agreed to make chicken noises from time to time as I suggested, given my best interpretation of the book. This seemed to be working.
We read the book; they listened. They interrupted, I answered. We did not specifically address chickens, nor the underlying message of the text but I did ask about books they liked, their favorite characters, how much reading they did and on and on.
And then it was their turn.
“Have you ever written a book?”
“So do you have kids?”
“Are you famous?”
And then the silence.
“So,” one of them said at last, “You’re just a regular person.”
I nodded, and I think after that there was a song they sang and I think we talked some more. Their faces were bright and young and full of curiosity, and they filled the room with it. Mrs. Dipinto gave me a warm thanks, and I was on my way.
It was the best morning in a very long time, and I want to go back next year.
Maybe by then I’ll be famous.