August 5, 2010

Children as Creators

What are you reading these days? I’ve been savoring some mighty special books made for me by the third graders at Hoffer Elementary School in Banning, California. Last March, I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at the Charlotte S. Huck Literature Festival in Redlands. It felt grand to leave cold Santa Fe and thaw out in sunny California. The organizing committee was warm and welcoming, my fellow speakers interesting and informative, and my sweet “angel” for the weekend, student Sarah Fiske-Phillips cheerfully escorted me to each event.

A highlight of my visit was meeting with those third graders though. Not only were they attentive and enthusiastic, they brought me gifts! In honor of my first children’s book, A Birthday Basket for Tía, they presented me with a large book they’d made titled, “An Author Basket for Pat Mora.” How I enjoy turning the pages and seeing the writing, art work and photos the students created after reading some of my books.

These talented students also made character sketch posters, a book of “thanks” inspired by Gracias~Thanks that includes statements and drawings, and a book about why libraries are important inspired by Tomás and the Library Lady. The children also presented me with a basket that day that included chocolates because I’d written Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico!, a lovely tea towel on which a mom had cross-stitched lovely poinsettias because I’d written The Gift of the Poinsettia: El regalo de la flor de nochebuena, and, one of my weaknesses pan dulce, Mexican sweet bread, made by a mom that morning because I’d written, The Bakery Lady/La señora de la panadería.

The children and teachers had decorated the room with their work including a bulletin board of “scary masks” inspired by reading Abuelos. The children said I could use the masks on “any kids you might know.” You can imagine how overwhelmed I felt at all the hard work that had been done by the students and their two wonderful teachers. I was also so impressed at the critical thinking the teachers had prompted in their students.

After their presentation, I asked the children how they thought I felt.

“Amazed?” they asked.


I laughed and said, “Teary,” which is the way I’ve felt as I typed this memory. I also received illustrated thank-you notes after our time together. As I say in my new book, Zing! Seven Creativity Practices for Educators and Students, teachers are treasures. My deep gracias~thanks to Ms.Gretchen Pelle and Ms. Kelly Mineo for reminding me how outstanding teachers enrich the lives of their students and for showering me with gifts and happy memories.

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