Wonderful W.I.T.S. (Writers in the Schools)

I’ve visited a few schools lately, thanks to the wonderful Writers in the Schools program, offered through the Writers’ Federation of NS. One morning in early September, schools apply to have writers visit them through WITS; the writer’s daily fee is shared by the school and the WFNS. As a writer, it’s an amazing opportunity to get feedback from young readers and spend time with your audience.
I’ve visited Lockeport Elementary, Sackville Centennial Elementary and Wolfville School recently; other than reading Rainbows in the Darkto younger students and debuting my writing PowerPoint, I’ve also had my first chance to read from A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunkto students in grades 5-7. As always, when you’re standing in front of 30 or 40 young people, there’s bound to be some shuffling and whispering, but by the time I get to the second page of the passage I’m reading, I’ve got everybody’s attention. In fact, I started to laugh after I finished reading to one group of grade 6 students last week; I could see on their faces that they were so with Jacob and his friends as they struggled to cross the River Gilo, thousands of miles away in Ethiopia, and I think I was in shock to see that happening as a result of words I had written. I tried to explain to them that I’ve read the words so many, many times, and it’s such a treat for me to watch people react upon hearing the words for the very first time. I’d actually like to have a chance to listen to somebody else read a passage sometime, just for interest’s sake. The students asked very thoughtful questions and were enthusiastic about the book and extremely curious about Jacob Deng. When I have time, we do a shared sensory writing activity that’s easy and fun – for them and for me!
Overall, WITS visits are a highlight of my writing life; I’m happy I also spend some time in schools as a substitute teacher so I’m well aware of the busy school environment. I’m always grateful to the teachers, staff and librarians who host my visits because I know how tough it is to get everything else done in the run of a day, let alone taking on something extra. 🙂

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