I have always loved to write. I kept notebooks of stories and riddles in the fourth grade. I began writing for children in the 1990s after years of teaching. I hope that children see themselves and their families in these books. I want them to realize that everyone has a story to tell and that every life is worthy. I keep a writer's notebook with me at all times. I am always tuned in to the world around me and make notes about those things that capture my attention. I find ideas for stories in everyday events. Saturdays and Teacakes began with the smell of cookies baking in the local grocery store.
I routinely read through my notebooks and on occasion I find a little nugget that can serve as the beginning of a new story. When a story begins I move to my computer and save every version until the final draft is ready for my editor. I write any time of day. I don't have a special time when writing seems to work. I prefer to write in my office at Thistle Hill, however, I do work on books when I'm on airplanes, in hotel rooms, dining alone or sitting in an airport waiting for a plane. I write most any place.
I wrote The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins as a bridge to understanding what happens as our bodies and minds begin to fail us. I wanted children to understand that their love, and the love that binds families, has tremendous power.
I wrote Trevor's Wiggly-Wobbly Tooth because I taught first grade and I remember what a big—huge—event it is to loose a tooth. I also remember those children who were last. The book should make us all chuckle and remember.
I wrote Saturdays and Teacakes to honor my maternal grandmother and my mom. I had a very special bond with my grandmother; she made me feel so very special, so very real and worthy. I wanted children to know that everyone deserves to be loved and cherished. I wanted adults to remember those feelings and to recognize the importance of making childhood that special time in life. I wanted to remind us all that children are to be cherished and nurtured if we expect them to cherish and love others as they grow up.
If you want to write: Stop wishing, start writing. Don't say 'one day when…' Just pick up a pen and open a notebook and start taking note of what you notice. Let your brain get in the habit of noticing the world. Read, read, read, read, read, read.…If you want to write read everything that is anything near what you hope to achieve. Fill your head with the sounds of it.
Lester L. Laminack, a full-time writer and consultant working with schools throughout the United States, is Professor Emeritus with department of Birth-Kindergarten, Elementary and Middle Grades Education, at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina where he received two prestigious awards for excellence in teaching (the Botner Superior Teaching Award and the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award).
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I have a dream for schools in our country. Take a moment to read it. If you share that vision please send a copy to those who sit in policy making positions, those are elected to represent you.
TOWARD A NEW VISION FOR OUR CHILDREN AND THEIR SCHOOLS: I HAVE A DREAM...
[Delivered first in May 2008]
I dream of schools where children’s art hangs in gallery spaces filling the hallways
and children gather in clusters in the mornings before class to hear books and poems flowing on the voices of teachers.
I dream of schools that host conversations about books in the corridors and in alcoves throughout the building
Of schools that post poems and quotes in public spaces where children wait for lunch, queue up in line for water and restrooms, to enter the library or wait for buses.
I dream of schools that feature teachers’ favorite books face out throughout the hallways and in the office
Where children don’t know what AYP means, and don’t know where their class ranked on any test, and are greeted at the front door each morning like family returning from a long trip.
Where children are treated with the same respect afforded the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Where mistakes are seen as evidences of valiant attempts.
Where kindness is spoken with sincerity
Where collaboration and cooperation trump competition
Where all people are deemed worthy simply because they inhale and exhale
Where everyone is assured of both physical and emotional safety
Where your last name, country of origin, skin tone, sexual orientation, gender identity, language facility, economic status, politic views, religious traditions have no bearing on the attention you receive from teachers and others in the school
I dream of schools where days are not scripted by those who could not find the Post Office in your town
Where time spent engaged in inquiry, reading, making art, writing, interviewing, dancing, problem solving, dramatizing is more highly prized than time spent filling in bubbles, choosing the right answer to someone else’s questions or logging on to prove you read.
Where libraries will be as important as stadiums and auditoriums rival gymnasiums
Where children are eager to arrive and reluctant to leave
Where devotion to time for reading and writing can rival attention to the lunch schedule
Where teachers read aloud with the zeal of a street performer and the frequency of a birdsong
Where principals lead by example, know children by their successes, place books over bus schedules, teachers over test scores, students over stanines, communication over control
I dream of schools where teaching is judged by the character of the students leaving, their treatment of others, their concern for humanity, and their ability to think and reason with clarity and compassion
Where a teacher’s knowledge is the map used to chart the course of learning and his/her heart is the navigator directing the journey
Where learning “how” is more important than learning “what” and knowing “when” and “why” are as important as getting the right answer
Where trying is more important than triumph and successive approximations are valued as much as success itself
Where children sit in small clusters for lunch gathered around a book discussion, a quote of the day, an issue to resolve in the classroom community while dining in a civil setting
Where children learn to engage in open dialog, respecting the ideas of others, entering and exiting a conversation in civil ways without raising a hand to be given permission to share their thinking in a free, civil, democratic society
I dream of schools where teachers do not feel forced to turn the pages and do what comes next in a program they do not believe in
Where teachers are treated with respect and professional courtesy, where their voices are listened to and trusted
Where hallways are read, viewed, puzzled over, seen as bearers of clues to riddles and brain teasers found throughout the building
Where walking in straight lines, and raising hands are less important than caring for classmates
Where writing is evaluated more on what is said, how it moves a reader, stirs an emotion, evokes a response, causes one to pause to think or change than on how many sentences were in a paragraph or how many paragraphs are in an essay
I dream of schools where readers are asked what they make of a text rather than asked to log on to give the correct answer to someone else’s questions
Where children are found discussing the actions and motives of a character instead of recording the details of that character’s home or clothing
Where children are more familiar with poets than NFL players, more familiar with authors than actors, more familiar with illustrators and artists than with athletes, more familiar with inventors and social activists than the names of video games, more familiar with mathematicians and scientists than sit-coms and March Madness
I dream of schools where children know they are cherished and trusted, where they feel safe to risk being wrong in order to learn lessons more important than arriving at the right answer
Will you join me?
Will you stand up for the children of this nation?
Will you take a stand on the issues that matter most to the preservation of their one, precious childhood.
Lester L. Laminack