Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Twitter: Connecting Kids and Authors

I devoured books as a kid. My mother was an avid reader, too. She made sure we had shelves of books at home and regular trips to the Andalusia Public Library. I always believed that anyone could love reading if they just found the right book. My daughter is not a reader. I tried for years to find her the right book. There were a few bright moments. She stayed up way too late one night to finish The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl. She adores Shel Silverstein's poems and has memorized several.  Every time I saw a flicker I would try to fan the flames, but her interest would sputter out. Finally one day when she was in 4th grade she looked at me and said, "Mom, reading is work for me. It is fun for you. I have to work so hard to read that it makes me not like most any book."

I backed off after that conversation. I tried to explain that if she read more, she would become a better reader and it wouldn't be so hard. We started reading books together. Each of us would read a page and it helped. Now that she is in 7th grade she is a better reader, but she still doesn't choose to read for fun. My experiences with my daughter have helped me become a better teacher. I work very hard to make books exciting in my room. I introduce kids to all types of books and constantly read kid lit so I'll know what to recommend to each child. Most of the time it works, but every year I have two or three kids like my daughter. They haven't met a book yet that was truly worth the extra work it took to finish it.

This year one such student borrowed The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier from a friend and loved it. He kept asking me if I knew of any other books similar to it. Finally in desperation, I turned to the same place I turn for most teacher advice these days... Twitter. I was hoping someone in my extensive PLN would come to the rescue.

Imagine my surprise when the very, next day I received a reply from Max Brallier himself. My students were in art class and I had to force myself to not run down the hall with my laptop to swing open the art room door and interrupt.

Oh my goodness! I had fifteen minutes until my students returned from art, so I raced to the school library and found Big Island by Doug TenNapel. I flipped on my projector and hooked my computer up. When the students returned, I showed everyone Max Brallier's responses. I don't think the kids could have been any more excited if the President of the United States had been tweeting to them.

Before the day was over, I noticed that another Twitter notification had popped up on my phone. This time Doug TenNapel chimed in to give his support.

On Monday morning, my student proudly announced he had finished the book Friday afternoon. He read all weekend and made his AR goal this week for the first time all year. So are these two authors just particularly friendly and twitter savvy? Maybe... but I think most authors would be thrilled to hear from kids who love their books.

For instance, over the weekend I visited my nieces. I gave a copy of Josh Funk's awesome picture book, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, to my 4 year old niece.  She is a picky eater and I thought it might encourage her to try some new foods.  Since I was still flying high from my Twitter success, I decided to post a picture. I told Piper that I would tell the author she liked it, so she carefully chose her favorite page to display.

I now believe most authors want to hear from children enjoying their books.  Writing can be a lonely job! What better motivation could there possibly be to keep plugging away? After the experience in our classroom last week, my students want me to tweet so many different authors. I've promised I will let each one choose a favorite author to tweet. Each one will give the author specific feedback on one of their books. The students have already been warned that not every author will respond, but they are still hopeful. 

Twitter has already changed my teaching by expanding my PLN, reigniting my passion for teaching and giving me confidence to blaze new paths. Now it is changing my students' lives directly by helping them find a passion for reading. 

My daughter is thirteen. Maybe it isn't too late for her!