Thank You Henley Middle School 7th Graders and Parents!

by julie swanson

henley1Wednesday night I spoke at Henley Middle School   in Crozet, Va, to a group of 7th graders (and some of their parents) who’d read my YA novel, Going for the Record. The kids are all students in Chuck Miller’s 7th grade language arts classes. Chuck uses the book in his classes, has the kids  read it and encourages their parents to read it with them, giving the kids one point extra credit if their parents actually do. Then they do some analyzing of the story’s themes, storyline, and characters, discussing,  writing assignments based on it… And at the end of the unit, Chuck has me come in and do an author presentation in the school library one night in late November or early December, for any students and parents who interested in coming.

Over the years, we’ve had some pretty good turnouts, but it varies. One year there might be 50-some there, another year 20-some. It’s 7 pm. on a week night and kids and families are busy with practices and extracurricular activities, not to mention dinner and homework. But this year there were 97 people there! We had to go and get more chairs, and I’d thought the original number set up was overly optimistic. Chuck said 49 out of 101 students in his classes attended; the rest were parents or siblings. I find it amazing for a non-mandatory event at that time on a weeknight. They were such a great group. Some kids were there with both parents. I saw older siblings who’d come along because they read the book previously. There were many boys there, and I’m always glad to see boys there, even happier when they actually ask questions, which they did. Many parents commented or asked questions showing that they had indeed read the book with their kids, which I find amazing, too.

Anyway, I really appreciated all of them coming, and they asked very thoughtful and insightful questions (some that I’ve never been asked before), and the time flew by. We ran a bit over and Chuck had to cut it off while there were still hands up to ask questions. At the end, kids and parents got in a line to have their books signed and comment or ask more questions.

All in all, it was a great night. Thank you, Chuck Miller, and thank you to all the Henley 7th graders and their parents who came and were such a good audience.