This week I read from the book Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff (2003 Newbery Honor Book) with fourth graders. It is the story of Hollis, who is a foster child, who never stays long and always runs away from her foster homes.
Then we brainstormed a list of ideas that we might write about. One idea was to write about a person who is very close, to describe them as Hollis described Steven, the boy who made her see what it might be like to have a brother.
After writing, we shared by reading in front of the class. One girl wrote about her cousin. She was overcome with emotion as she read about how much she means to her, how she is like the sister she doesn’t have (she is an only child). It made her cry, but she kept going, kept reading, because it was so important to her to share her writing, to express how she loves her cousin. When she went back to her seat, some of the other kids gathered around her, reaching out and putting hands on her shoulders.
That is the power of story. One of the reasons I teach is to help my students realize everyone has a story and sharing our stories is a powerful experience.