Thursday, May 23, 2024

Chickens, Kids and a Day to Remember

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?”

“No.”

“So do you have kids?”

“No.”

“Are you famous?”

“No.”

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.

Marie Speed
Marie Speed
Marie Speed is group editor of all JES publications, including Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Worth Avenue, Mizner’s Dream and the annual publication for the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. She also oversees editorial operations of the company’s Salt Lake City magazines. Her community involvement has ranged from work with the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce to a longtime board member position at Caridad Center. She is also on the George Snow Scholarship Fund review committee. She is a past officer of the Florida Magazine Association and a member of Class XVII of Leadership Florida. In her spare time, Marie enjoys South Florida’s natural world through hiking and kayaking, and she is an avid reader and an enthusiastic cook.

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