Rachel S. Heslin
Thoughts, insights, and mindless blather

Indoctrinated Youth
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The Read-A-Thon went really well, at least for me. It turns out that the fifth graders I got were the GATE class (I think it stands for Gifted And Talented Education; I can't remember what they called it when I was a kid, but I seem to remember it was eventually dubbed Politically Incorrect), which was even better. I'd edited the chapter a bit beforehand, just for ease of reading, and I wasn't sure if I should read the whole chapter or just the first part (before Morgan goes down to the docks and meets Deth, for those of you who know the story and care.) I ended up reading the first part, answering some questions, and taking a vote in which enough of the class wanted to hear more that I read the rest of the chapter.

One boy asked, after I'd been telling them of a riddle contest with a 500 year-old ghost, "This isn't real, is it?" so I answered that no, this was a fantasy. Another boy asked if it were like medieval times, and I told him that it was a fantasy world which was greatly influenced by Celtic and Welsh mythology. Was that too arcane an answer for a 11-year-old? Maybe, but I didn't worry about it. I didn't know about Celtic and Welsh mythology when I first read it, and part of me was a little disappointed when I found out, because until that point, it had been a completely unique world that was mine. It still is, as far as I'm concerned.

And, yeah, some of the kids started getting restless near the end, and not all of them seemed completely into it, but for the most part, they were quite and attentive and some even laughed out loud at the amusing parts. I left the names of the individual books, trilogy and author with the teacher and told the class that, if they were interested in reading more, they could do an inter-library loan request at our local library for the series (they have them down the hill.) I also explained that the brief mention at the end of the chapter about the stars on his brow would end up meaning that he had a destiny before him that he didn't really want [oh, crikey, that was another aftershock; enough already], and the teacher said, "So, it's kind of like Harry Potter before Harry Potter!" which took me a bit aback, since although I enjoy the Potter series, I had never made a connection between them, but I figured, hey, whatever inspires them to read and agreed with her.

The oddest thing for me was that, when I started I was nervous. This is kind of weird. I mean, I'm a really big ham. I love being the center of attention and I love telling stories. It's not like I can't read aloud or I have a fear of acting (hah!), but there I was, standing in front of a bunch of kids, with thumping heart and rasping voice. Oddly, I think my greatest fear was time: how long would it take me? Would it be too long? Would they get bored?

So I slowed down, gave each word resonance where it was needed, painted pictures and paused to let them see, then spoke quickly and tightly to describe the battle between brothers, then stopped again, clearly, trying to show the thoughts and dreams and fears of these people -- my friends -- I was introducing to them. I guess it worked, because I stopped being nervous, and they did ask for the rest of the chapter.

As for the 2nd graders, they were great. The story was well written and good for their age group without condescending, and the pictures (yes, I showed them the pictures) were sumptuous. Afterwards, one little girl had to bring me the book she was reading, a Hopi legend about a paper hummingbird who came to life through magic and saved them.

And now I'm waiting for my hubby to pick me up so we can go visit friends down the hill for the evening. All in all, it's shaping up to be a good day.

: )

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