I visited with Langston Hughes Elementary school on Chicago’s south side yesterday. I spent the d ay there, speaking with 2nd, 4th, 5th and 8th grade classes. Talk about the need to be versatile! What works for one group leaves the other yawning, so I had to be able to change on a dime as I kept watch over my audience. But by the end they were all wanting more, with the 8th graders late for their own lunch periods because they kept asking me questions instead of heading for the door, and the 2nd graders reluctant to follow their parents home because they kept wanting to give me advice.
Every group had different questions. Many of the students are interested in careers in art and writing, so I received tons of questions on both subjects. In every class except the 2nd graders the girls did most of the questioning. Of course, with the second graders they were mostly telling me what to do, so maybe that’s why the boys were so eager to speak. The value of the day for me was in meeting with these kids and connecting with their enthusiasm, even the teachers seemed astonished by how interested they were in hearing the good, the bad and the ugly about writing as a career. I gave out books and PULL bracelets, and a promise that any question they sent me would be answered. I hope I helped a few be inspired in creativity and belief in their capabilities, whether as authors, artists or any other endeavor they want to pursue. And I will be happy to return to their school, or any other Chicago Public School if I am issued an invitation.