Category Archives: Op-Ed

Memories-Part 1

When I realized my MUF post fell on Veterans Day, I immediately thought I’d create a short blurb about the history of the day and provide a related booklist. Then two things happened. The first thing was that I sifted through MUF’s old posts. Jennifer Swanson beat me to my Veterans Day idea by three years. The second thing that happened was I thought about my grandpa.

1943 US Marine-WWII VeteranMy Grandpa Jagger served in the United States Marines during WWII. He drove a tank and was injured on a battered and bloody beach during the invasion of Saipan in 1944, earning a Purple Heart. Over 60 years later, I sat beside his chair, rested my hand in his, and listened as he shared about his military service.

Up until that day, I hadn’t allowed myself to consider that my grandfather held memories I would lose when he was gone. The only memories that wouldn’t fade would be those held by others. In that moment, I realized I wanted more than my memories of him; I wanted his memories, too. But those memories would soon be grains of sand swept to sea by the tides of time.

Unless I allowed myself to slow down and engage. To listen. To be present.

So that’s what I did.

Today, Veterans Day is the tide that carries those memories back to me, and I find myself reflecting on how my need to engage in the present also applies to my efforts as a writer.

In my fiction, it’s easy to get caught up and swept away in the “reality” of my own creation. However, even a fictional world and characters and events must feel real. They must ring true. To achieve that, I can’t allow myself to get lost in my own mind and musings. I need to pull memories and details and emotions from the very real world around me. I must be a participant in the world and an observer. A giver of truths and a collector. A sharer of memories and a gatherer.

I must take the time to slow down and engage. To listen. To be present.

That’s what I learned from my grandpa.

I hope you come back on Monday to read Part 2 of this post—a booklist of middle-grade novels in which memories (shared, stored, hidden, and lost) play key roles. In the meantime, take this Veterans Day to remember and honor the millions of men and women who have served and continue to serve our nation. And take a moment for memories, too.

To share them.

To build them.

To be present.


T. P. Jagger The 3-Minute Writing TeacherAlong with his MUF posts, T. P. Jagger can be found at www.tpjagger.com, where he provides brief how-to writing-tip videos as The 3-Minute Writing Teacher plus original, free readers’ theater scripts for middle-grade teachers. He also has even more readers’ theater scripts available at Readers’ Theater Fast and Funny Fluency. For T. P.’s 10-lesson, video-based creative writing course, check him out on Curious.com.

Taking a kindness cue from kids

The election is finally over. Whether or not the candidate you supported came out victorious, I sincerely hope that we, as a nation, can move forward. Not only move forward, but heal.  Somehow become less divisive and more unified. And realize that our differences may not be as great as they seem.

This campaign was not only like no other in history, it also took a dramatic toll on many Americans’ mental health. In October, the American Psychological Association found in a survey that 52 percent of American adults found the election to be a “very” or “somewhat significant” source of stress. Adding to the stress, the survey found, was social media. Arguments, stories, video, comments, and images on social media that ranged from factual to hostile to inflammatory heightened people’s concerns and frustrations. A common theme emerged around the country — therapists reported that their patients felt more worried and less safe.

As a middle grade author, I couldn’t help thinking throughout the campaign: what about our kids? What are they hearing, seeing, and taking in? How is it affecting them? What are we showing them and teaching them, with our words and our behavior? What will they remember? And how will they act when they become adults…and voters?

I visit many schools and I honestly can’t think of one that didn’t have some type of kindness effort in place. Jars in classrooms to write a “put up” or “shout out” about a classmate. A wall of kids’ names who were observed doing random acts of kindness. A mural where kids wrote their wishes for a better world. Kindness Week. “It’s Cool to Be Kind.” The Great RAK Challenge. Kind words in chalk on a playground sidewalk or adorning posters in hallways. The message is clear in schools: Be kind, act kind, do kind things. This is the KIND of person you should be.

marian-hs-omaha-ne I even recently read about a girl who designed an app for use in a school cafeteria so everyone could find a seat at lunch and no one would have to sit alone.

Amazing, right?

When I observe these efforts at schools and see how they impact kids, I’m always blown away by the positive and hopeful messages. And I can’t help thinking that many adults need to take a cue from kids, and schools, for that matter.

michigan-girl-scouts-7-ypsilanti-eventSeems to me like there’s a really confusing dichotomy. Kids are taught to be kind and helpful and never to bully or tease. Then the exact opposite behavior is displayed by some (not all) people during the campaign — insults swapped back and forth, raging arguments on social media, fights during rallies. It got ugly. And sad. How could kids possibly make sense of this? They couldn’t. No one could.

That’s why I hope we can move forward from this moment and be better. Be kinder to each other. Listen more, talk less. Certainly argue less. Next time you’re in a school, read some of those kindness walls and posters. If our kids grow up with these messages ingrained in their heads, we’ll have nowhere to go but up.

And on a personal note, because I live in Chicago, I’ll add my tearful joy to the chorus of my city on the Cubs World Series win. They brought a ray of optimism to a year when many of us couldn’t find a lot to be joyful about. The grittiness and “never give up” attitude was a balm to heal our nation’s soul. Go Cubs!

gty-world-series-game7-end-25-jrl-161102_16x9_992Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days (Penguin Random House) and Calli Be Gold (Penguin Random House). She has a new middle grade novel coming fall 2017 from Aladdin Books. Connect with her online at micheleweberhurwitz.com.

 

 

 

Recipe for a Successful Book Festival

ksfest1This past Saturday I participated in the first annual Kansas Children’s Literacy Festival, and it was such an amazing experience I thought I’d share my thoughts on why it worked so well. It was a new event in Wichita, Kansas, but the turnout was huge and scores of kids walked away with new books to explore, and a whole lot more!

kslitfest3Here’s what made the event so successful: COMMUNITY. Area schools, local book stores, and community organizations partnered together with city leadership and a radio station to encourage kids to read and write. I loved the scope of fun events offered to celebrate literacy. The event kicked off with a full-blown parade, including a float featuring a gigantic book! Then a celebrated local children’s choir gave their first concert of the year. An illustrator presented a riveting and humorous demonstration. A local kite and toy store helped kids make kites and we had a balloon launch to help “Reading Take Flight.” Wichita Griots African storytellers played drums and told enchanting stories. There were balloon creations, face painting, food trucks, and everything that makes a festival a festival!

ksfest4And of course there were books! SCBWI authors and illustrators from around the state talked with young readers in an author tent and read from their works in the storytime tent. There were so many smiles!

I think another big factor in the success of the event had to do with the level of PROMOTION it received beforehand. Local news stations and newspapers came out to cover the festival as well, interviewing families and participants to ensure the word is out for next year’s celebration.

ksfest5As you see, I roped my lovely daughter into helping me. She played the Tickle Me Pink Crayon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar and had so much fun!

If you are an educator or librarian hoping to launch a book festival of any size or add some zest to an already existing one, may I suggest adding some activities that may not seem necessarily reading related to draw interest? I think that was the other factor that caused the Kansas Children’s Literacy Festival to be such a success: VARIETY.

What things have you seen work to draw kids to book fairs and festivals? We’d love to hear your ideas!

Louise Galveston is the author of BY THE GRACE OF TODD and IN TODD WE TRUST (Penguin/Razorbill.)