I can’t really use the idea behind the title of Robert Fulghum’s book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten since I never attended kindergarten as a student. However, there were six years when I was the kindergarten teacher. Let me tell you, each day brought a lesson with a five-year-old perspective that most adults have left behind.
Recently, I was invited to return to Kindergarten as a guest to talk about writing. I took my “Story of a Story” presentation and led them on a journey from the idea in my head all the way to publication of an article about Ezra Jack Keats in Highlights for Children. Well-prepared for my visit by their teacher, they could tell me the difference between fiction and nonfiction and vote intelligently for their preference. They nodded knowingly as we discussed research and rewriting. The Q and A at the end brought up the number of “No, thanks” replies that writers get from editors and the need to get over discouragement and send their manuscripts out again.
I hope they learned from the presentation as I did from them. The thank-you notes with more five-year-old lessons that came the next week showed individual personalities, not copies of an example the teacher put on the board. Since they all spelled “Virginia” correctly, I’m guessing she did write that for them. Some of their lessons:
• One said, “Go, books!!” and ended with, “And one more thing I love fiction!” She may have missed a comma, but she knows her exclamation marks.
• Another did a bit of P.R., “No I Pad Do Books.”
• I think there was a lesson in open-heartedness as many expressed love on such short acquaintance, especially the one who had three-quarters of a page filled with x-kisses.
Maybe my favorite lesson came from the young student advisor who had listened intently to my stories of writers who had succeeded in spite of “No, thanks” answers from publishers. As we wound up the visit, he raised his hand and said, “I just want to say, don’t give up on your dream.” I think I’ll take his advice.