“We read to know we are not alone.”
- C.S. Lewis
In Mrs. Hartly’s 2nd Grade Class, I routinely sat at my desk diligently getting my school work done so I could get to the “enrichment” activity which was usually a blank box in the middle of an 8 1/2 X11 worksheet. This was where I could draw about what we were learning about that day. I always enjoyed trying to draw from the illustrations of the books we were reading. The lined sketches from Dr. Seuss were some of my favorite picture references. I could identify each line in the picture and accurately draw it on my paper.
One day our class was reading a Dr. Seuss book called “The Snitches”. This was a story where half the Sneetches had a green star on their belly and half of them did not. They both thought their group was superior to the other and even constructed a “Star-On” and later a “Star-Off” machine just to remain different. In the end, they realized that it did not matter if they had a green star on their belly or not; they were all equal. Looking back, Mrs. Hartly could have preached to us for many days about equality and tolerance; but there was something about an collection of words and pictures that made a lasting impression more than 30 years later.
As I entered middle school and high school, my photographic memory sharpened from sketching many hours a day for many years. I could even memorize an entire score of music on the piano. However, I had trouble sight reading music and I was assigned books which began to have less and less pictures in them. Reading was a chore because we later learned, I was a slow reader. Reading slowly was like watching a movie in slow motion... it was boring. This was in a time before the world-wide web, so my parents purchased an old-school floppy disk with a reading exercise on it. We inserted it into our family’s beige IBM PC at home and I practiced following a dot, then a word, then a sentence from left to right everyday until my eyes gained speed enough to read at a comfortable pace.
Reading at a normal speed allowed me to picked up Michael Shaara’s novel about Gettysburg. It allowed me to camp out on the high rocks of Little Round Top and follow a school teacher from Maine, Joshua Chamberlain, down the hill with nothing but bayonets and swords and help save the Union. This story taught me that whatever problems in life, there was someone on a muggy hightop in Pennsylvania with no ammunition left and he figured it out. We all have challenges in different ways and in the words of C.S. Lewis, we are not alone.
Hannah and Carmen and their team from NDI-New Mexico brought this joy of reading to Hobbs, New Mexico this week. They taught that reading a story well told mixed with the “Core Four” of working hard, doing your best, never giving up and staying healthy will help these students strive for a life of excellence. Some students might even become a professional writer or artist when they grow up and share their story with the world.
It is the writers and artists that shape the culture of a school and a community. They are the true leaders behind every generation for good or ill. The good ones continue to guide us out of the dark times into the next renaissance. They bring us out of the shadows of our current circumstances and remind us to imagine the possibilities...
Thank you for supporting the arts and kids.
Elementary Fine Arts Coordinator
C.S. Lewis Quote from: http://www.goodreads.com
Photo by SPUR TV Film Crew