I've taken copies into the playground to show parents. There have been tears of pride, and comments like "I had no idea my child could write like that!"
Many people have commented about the high quality of production, and it really does give the poetry gravitas. Many people have said that it is the sort of book you would keep forever, to look back on. Many people have said they knew I was working on the book but had no idea it would look so good. There is a sense of genuine amazement and pride.
Some parents who work in other schools have said they want to take copies into their own schools and do similar projects. Pass on our thanks to all concerned in the production.
I have long believed in the importance of encouraging children to write for real audiences, and that necessitates publication. A piece of writing, given an audience, takes on a new life, and finding your writing transformed (on the printed page, in the hands of a reader) is a very particular experience. The writing is at once yours and not yours (it has also become “theirs”). You read your own words differently, and in the process, see yourself differently.
This morning, as my son lay on the carpet reading his own and his schoolmates’ poems aloud – choosing his favourites, laughing at the funny ones, being amazed – I saw that very particular experience at work. As a writer, an education worker and as a parent, I knew we had done a good thing.
This afternoon, further proof – if more were needed – of the importance of publication arrived in the doorway of my office in the form of a five year old boy. He said, “Kate, I’ve written you a poem.” He handed me a page on which he’d written, in his big, childish hand, a nine word poem about a bus. I thanked him and said it was lovely. He said, “Could you put it in the book because I haven’t got a poem in the book.” I thought he must be wrong, and got the book out. He was right. He was one of only two children, I think, who had been away when all the poetry writing took place. It was heartbreaking. Why hadn’t I sought him out when he had returned to school? Why hadn’t I made more effort to include him at the last minute? Perhaps, under pressure, good intentions are lost. Perhaps, at the time, even I didn’t realise how important the book would be to our community.
I typed his poem and gave it back to him to illustrate. We laminated it and put in on the wall. His poem has been published, but I think we both know that the way it has been published is not quite good enough.