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by Denise Gary
Photographs © Denise Gary
What a BEAUTIFUL afternoon I spent with the Smith Junior High School “special class of awesome” on October 30th! I was so fortunate to be able to share the story of The Little Flame with the students of the Mesa, Arizona school, as well as provide them all with a copy of the book, a Highlights magazine, a KNTR 2015 calendar, buttons, bookmarks, postcards, and a Halloween tumbler. I just kept pulling out more and more gifts from my container, much to their shock and delight! Everything seemed a treasure and it was so much fun! (Thank you to The Little Flame project supporters, Highlights for Children, Life Alert Emergency Response, and Barnes & Noble Metro Center for making these gifts possible!)
We all had a great dialog about the themes imparted in the book: the meaning of each Peace Word, the destructiveness of anger, and the importance of setting life goals. The students were then given flame-colored leaves to share their own goals or the things that made them feel at peace.
The leaves were attached to the Peace Tree outside the classroom, above which hovered clouds representing each Peace Word.
I had many favorite moments, but one especially wonderful moment came during the discussion of courage. It was pointed out that one student often stood up for his fellow students whenever someone was being unkind to them. This takes so much courage and integrity, especially in middle school. I was thrilled to hear the story!
Another fun moment came when I heard a student exclaim, “Oh, Mrs. Gary…,” followed by a fit of giggling. I turned to see this student looking at the picture of me sporting a Stitch hat in the back of the book. I exclaimed, “Oh, you caught me! You weren’t supposed to know that was me!” The rest of the class descended into giggles. It made me glad I used such a silly “author” picture in the book.
Thanks ever so much to teacher Cyndi Galvan for providing me with such a warm venue to read The Little Flame, and for leaving me with this sentiment in the card: “Your book is both beautiful and full of special meaning for everyone—kid and adult alike!”
Thanks also to class assistants Bianca and Samantha for embracing The Little Flame and for treating me so kindly.
Most of all, thank you to the wonderfully bright and attentive students for listening to the story and engaging in thoughtful discourse. It gave me so much pleasure to not only share the tale of The Little Flame but to work on a related and meaningful project with the kids. Literacy—and all of the power that comes with it—is learned!
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