We spent the past few days visiting two incredible Title I elementary schools in Columbus, Ohio—Oakland Park and Westgate. The visits were a true collaboration—between Busload of Books, First Book, Build-A-Bear Foundation, NCTE (the National Council for Teachers of Education), and the Columbus City Schools literacy team.
Robbi and I stayed up late on Monday night, struggling to remember our presentations, but
when our first assembly began, we remembered what to say. The kids laughed in all the right places. It was just like old times.
At the end of the assemblies, we had the fun of announcing that every kid would be getting a “reading buddy” as a gift from Build-A-Bear Foundation. Seeing a room full of kids get free bears is one of life’s great joys. A little boy from Oakland Park came up to me and said, “I named my bear Best because he’s the best. I love him and he’s real to me.”
It wasn’t just the bears that got kids excited. After our presentation at Westgate, two girls told Robbi and me they were going to make a book together and were going to get feedback from their classmates so they could make it better. Which is to say, they were putting the lessons from our assembly into motion before we even left the building.
These schools were full of kids eager to read, write, draw, and share their creations with us. Dior started writing a book based on the brainstorm we’d done in the assembly. Malaysia drew Robbi a butterfly.
Our visits were made all the more special by the wonderful folks from the Columbus City Schools literacy department, who were on hand to help us set up, hand out bears, and spend time with the kids. They work incredibly hard to promote reading throughout the district, including an initiative to get two million books into student hands over the past three years.
We hadn’t done a school visit in almost six months. It was strange (and sad) that our own kids weren’t with us and that we couldn’t bring Dumbles out to scowl as hundreds of kids showered him with love.
But it was so good to be back with the kids, back with the teachers, back in the heart of that wonderful, hopeful, transformative energy.