I’m back from Springfield, but I feel jipped. I didn’t get to shake hands with a fake Abe or stand next to his waxed body. I didn’t get to stare at history and watch Civil War greatness transpire in condensed museum minutes. But I did witness history of a different kind at the Illinois Reading Council where teachers joined together to fight a great battle—Literacy.
In a battle for attention, our blue MuseWrite booth lost to grey. You can’t compete with rescue greyhounds. But we did have some special visitors—Boomer and Sheila, two IRC VIPs, came by to pose with history’s great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster.
The SCBWI-Illinois booth won praise from all who passed by. Louann Brown created a ridonkulously large clown.
You know I’m deathly afraid of clowns, don’t you?
But I still managed to creep up and steal a picture. Anastasia Ely, SCBWI person of awesome, informed me that both MT Anderson and Jane Yolen stopped by to see the clown. And I missed it?!
When I met MT at the SCBWI Summer Conference last August I swore he’d make the best late-night Denny’s friend. And because I didn’t even get a chance to see him speak—sulk—my MuseWrite friends and I went to Denny’s in honor of MT’s greatness. Or maybe we were just hungry for Moons Over My Hammy.
At our panel, Jen Cullerton Johnson, Michelle Duster, and I challenged teachers to create communities that extend beyond classroom walls. We were thrilled to have so many teachers say they would take our four-week lesson plan to their classrooms. We can reduce our differences by uniting through similarities, and writing can play a big role in creating communities.
At an appetizer gathering in our hotel we met Stacy Baker and Ann Kluesner, two teachers from Peoria who help strengthen their community by offering meals to their students’ families. In one of the poorest areas in the United States with over 95% free or reduced lunch, teachers visit homes with dirt floors and chickens running down stairways in order to provide food for hungry families. Coats, mittens, hats, and clothing are donated from other communities. Their school attendance rate is near-perfect because students look forward to a warm room, food, and a fun learning environment. In a conference of over 3,000, Stacy Baker and Ann Kluesner most definitely won the Battle for Literacy!