This past week I had my first experience reading Odie the Stray Kitten to an elementary school classroom, and I hope to make this a regular occurrence. I began by introducing myself and telling the students that I had been writing stories for a very long time. I started writing stories about animals when I was their age, as soon as I could write. And it has continued for over 20 years. I spoke about the real Odie and how his life inspired me to write this particular story and that I felt it was one of the best I had written. It was the first story I had turned into a book.
The students had recently been working on their writing, especially editing and revising. So I talked about how many times I had to edit and revise the story and about how the biggest revision was the perspective of the story. Before I began reading the book, I asked them to think about who was telling the story. Of course I was the one reading it, but I wanted them to understand whose words were on the pages. Changing the perspective from third to first person (Odie is the one telling the story) was by far the biggest revision of the book.
I read the book to the class and it seemed to almost take on a whole new life as I read it to a room of seven and eight year-olds. The students were genuinely interested in what happened to Odie and they were captivated by the illustrations.
I gave them time to ask me questions, some of which were obscure, but still relevant. Then I showed them a poster board I had created with pictures of the real Odie and the other characters from the book. I felt like the students enjoyed this part of my presentation the most. This was the next best thing to having the real Odie in the classroom (Odie would not be a fan of that). This way the children could see the real animals and hopefully it helped them to realize how animals do have stories to tell. For me, the animals write the stories, I just edit them for children.
This was a very positive first experience taking the book to the classroom. Later that evening I received a message from the teacher telling me that she already had a parent comment on how much her child enjoyed the book and my presentation in the classroom. This meant more to me than anything. If my writing can inspire one child to begin writing his or her own stories or to become more aware of animal welfare, then I have done my job with this book.