Love, Peace & Beach Balls

The LitWorld Team has been in Kibera three days and every moment seems to shine brightly and pass all to quickly. The enthusiasm of the teachers at Red Rose is matched only by the energy of their students. I feel lucky to be learning with them and sharing in their reading and writing experiences. Things we love and celebration have been the themes running through our workshops and the joyfulness of LitWorld's work rings through every precious second we spend with the Red Rose community.

The Girls Club at Red Rose were inspired by the picture book version of Eloise Greenfield's poem, Honey, I Love. They wrote their own poetry about things they love in their lives and communities. Berta and Quinter share their poems with one another. Their poems were about things they had seen in Kibera the day before and were rich with metaphors. The quiet intimacy of the "turn and talk" helped them feel confident and proud when they shared their poems with the whole group a few minutes later.

After watching Pam and me model an interactive read aloud with her 2nd graders, Teacher Lillian jumped in and led the children in a sing-along reading of the book My Love For You that built both counting skills and comprehension. Lillian, the children, Pam and I all had a ball acting out each page of the book as it counts all the ways two friends love one another.

Annie did an incredible job guiding the 1st graders at Red Rose through a read aloud of The Peace Book. Beginning by talking through what peace means to the children, Annie brings her whole self into the reading and inspired the 1st graders to draw what peace means to them. The drawings were thoughtful and fanciful and hopeful and expansive. Peace meant so many things to the 1st graders - rainbows and friends and family and a home - and each response was celebrated in a way that was so true to the uniqueness of each child.

In LitWorld's spirit of joyful learning, the 1st grade class received star stickers to commemorate their work with The Peace Book. The token may seem small to adults, but the validation it symbolizes is a giant leap toward cultivating the lifelong reader and writer in each child at Red Rose.

The Girls Club came together to hear Pam reread Charlotte's Web. Some of the girls remembered the story from her last reading, for some of the girls it was brand new. Everyone was spellbound as Pam began, but the silence was soon broken by laughter and excitement as Pam and the whole LitWorld team joined in the fun of acting out the scene where Wilbur breaks free of his pen at the farm. Annie played the leading role and by the end everyone was laughing together as we ran around the room chasing her.

The LitWorld beach balls were a phenomenal hit! Every child both marveled at and reveled in the novelty of a beach ball with a map of the world on it. The six we brought with us flew around the schoolyard as the 200 children at Red Rose chased them, tossed them and caught them on a perfect, sunny afternoon.

I realized as I have been reflecting on the past few days at Red Rose, that I feel inspired to do this work more passionately and advocate for children and communities hungry for the tools for learning without rest. The stories the children have shared in just three days with us have cost nothing but they are priceless. They are the beginnings and continuings of their growth into confident readers and writers, they are the expression of an endless store of hope and love and joy that confirms what we have long felt deep within us.

Childhood is a treasure and stories provide a sanctuary for the child in the world and literacy - true transformational literacy - can be the child's greatest defense and most constant inspiration as they grow, no matter where, no matter when, no matter how.

- Jen