I just returned from visiting a 4th grade class that has been reading my book, Sir Nathan and the Quest for Queen Gobbledeegook.
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It was a fantastic visit, better than I could have expected. The kids were well-bahaved, polite and (most exciting!) interested! I have a 4th grade son and I know how they can behave. One Christmas, my wife and I tended to my son's class during the holiday pageant, watching over the class when it wasn't there turn to be down in the gym, singing their 4th grade hearts out. Those kids were terrible! Sure, they were stirred up because of the special event. But my wife and I quickly went from polite adults handing out suggestions to gruff grown-ups, barking out orders.
On the contrary, this class was wonderful. They've been reading a bit of my book, out loud, in class each day. They were near the end today, but unfortunately we didn't have enough time for me to read to them the rest of the book. I believe they are about 10 pages shy of the ending.
Now, I am the first one to recognize and realize that not every one is going to adore my work and fawn over me and gush about what they love. I also realize that a lot of what these kids wrote in their letters to me were just because they had to come up with something to write and of course they're going to say things about how it's their favorite book or how I'm the best writer, ever. No, it was their comments after I was done reading to them that touched me the most. These kids had imaginings and visualizations deep down in their brains - specific pictures about what was going on in the story. That showed to me how they were listening and enjoying the story. And that, more than anything else, is near and dear to me. I could have ten-times the sales I have right now and it wouldn't mean as much as these kids and their simple enjoyment of my book.
Plus, it was interesting to see how they were excited about the print proof that I had taken in with me. The book isn't quite ready to be available in a print-on-demand version, but the fact that I had a solid, tangible, actual paper book in my hand was the coolest thing they had ever seen, or so you would think from their reactions.
So, yes, kids over-exaggerate and gush, just to get their own attention. I get that. I recognize that. But they weren't faking the giggles at the silly moments and they weren't faking groans of disappointment when it was time to stop reading.
Or maybe they were. You know how devious kids can be.