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Literary Reflections Reader Response

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Literary Reflections is pleased to present our featured writing prompt response from Gretta Moorhead. Earlier this month, we asked: Who showed you that books are more than text printed on a page? Describe one specific interaction with this person and the book that was discussed.

Gretta wrote:

Mrs. Hobson was my fourth grade teacher. She was a quiet woman, round and soft, friendly and firm. Every day after recess she read to us, twenty-eight sweaty, spent fourth graders. I'd settle into my wooden chair, wrap my feet around its legs, nestle my head in the nest of my arms, and close my eyes.

One day Mrs. Hobson read a story set in ancient China. The flare from a burning pen of pigs stung my eyes. My stomach knotted in fear. While the embers smoldered a child stuck his finger into the side of his dead pet pig, pulled it out and licked it. I tasted the warm savory juice of the pig.

Once we spent three weeks in a dark Southern swamp, a boy drifting without a paddle, hoping somehow to get home. My skin chilled when a snake uncoiled and dropped into the gloomy water. My heart raced when a muskrat's red eyes appeared ahead. The smell of the fetid swamp made my nose narrow and my eyes run. I imagine the boy eventually got home; I don't remember. But I do remember the terror of that swamp. I do remember what it was to be lost there, even though I'd never been lost and never seen a swamp.

The week Mrs. Hobson read us a story about Ella, a girl who learned to walk again after contracting polio, I became mindful of the power of a book. The day Ella surprised her mother with her first steps I cried, in class, in front of others. I cried about a person who wasn't even real. I knew then the might of a book.

I don't recall the titles of the books Mrs. Hobson read. But I remember a rising awareness that books could take me somewhere new in the world and somewhere new inside myself. I knew in fourth grade that being read to after recess was the best part of the day. Mrs. Hobson had shown me the enchantment and the mystery of books.

Gretta can be reached at grettamoorhead(at)gmail(dot)com.

A new Literary Reflections writing prompt is published the first weekend of every month. Responses are accepted until the 15th, and I promise to comment shortly after that. Look for it - we'd love to hear from you.

The Literary Mama Blog Editor searches for mama-centric news you can use — including information about publishing opportunities and literacy efforts; essays and writing prompts that motivate and inspire; and announcements about events, classes, and workshops. The current blog editor is Rudri Patel; read her bio here.

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As an English teacher, this passage could not have been more meaningful, more beautiful. Teachers all over the world long to spread our love for words to our students. Each year I begin the year explaining to my students what books can offer. And each year one or two of them begins to get it. I can see in their eyes-see that the book has spoken to them. They can't wait to talk about it, describe it, relive it. I feel blessed to be part of the experience with them. Mrs. Hobson sounds like one of the teachers I most want to be like. A conveyor of love and learning that lasts long into the future. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I needed a pick-me-up right now as teachers all over the country fight for our right to health insurance and unions. Thank you for reminding everyone what teachers can do!
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