A Visit to the Sixth Grade

A Visit to the Sixth Grade

I recently visited the sixth grade at a school in Cedar Falls, Iowa to talk about being a writer. Ninety eleven- and twelve-year-olds sat on the floor in the central area of an open space classroom while I gave a talk I ambitiously called “From Idea to Book.”

Ninety Sixth Graders? Help!

I won’t lie. Ahead of time, I found the event a little scary. In all my years teaching, I never taught anyone under 18. Even among readers of my books, I don’t usually find people this young. That’s because two of my three published novels are YA, i.e., intended for ages 12 and up. And the research shows that especially in science fiction and fantasy, a lot of nominally YA novels are read by adults.

So the idea of facing 90 sixth-graders at once was intimidating.

But my first book, Finders Keepers, is middle grade, i.e., for readers 10 and up. And that’s the book I talked about to this group.

The whole event turned out to be fun. The kids were lively and engaged. They came up with wonderful ideas for possible story development, and they asked great questions ranging from how long it took me to write a book to who my favorite author was.

The Pleasure of Reading to and with Your Kids

One thing the visit did was remind me of the pleasure of sharing books with kids, and in particular, the pleasure of reading aloud with them.

After Finders Keepers came out, two people told me they were reading the book aloud with their 9 year olds. I found that intensely gratifying. I read to my own son long after he could read for himself. It was one of the most enjoyable activities we engaged in together. At least from my angle, endless games with matchbox cars couldn’t compete.

Reading with Big Kids

We probably all know that reading to younger kids is good for literacy development. But it turns out reading to older ones benefits them too.

There’s some evidence reading fiction helps people develop empathy. They enter someone else’s point of view and see the world from a perspective different than their own.

Reading to your kids is also a good way to expose them to different genres and authors. Most of us look for books by authors we’ve enjoyed before. Kids do this too. If you read something different to them, though, they can get hooked and try something new that’s worth reading.

It can also help them develop their reading skills. They take in new vocabulary words, for instance, especially if they can see the page while you read. When you stop, they practice skills like guessing what will happen next. They often want to talk about things like why characters do what they do.

Don’t Miss Out

Seriously though, the biggest reason I read to my kid was that it was fun. Don’t miss out on this. Do it.

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