Helping Kids Cope During Scary Times by Kris Barr Paquette
As we slowly watched the Covid 19 virus spread across the world until it affected our state, our county, our town we held out hope that by some miracle our little community would go on as normal. Our state governor called a state of emergency as the virus began to spread through Michigan communities. She ordered a lockdown order forcing schools and non-essential businesses to close. We watched the evening news in horror as confirmed cases doubled and tripled and continued to jump, jump, jump higher than a person would have thought possible. It totally felt like a “Young Adult Best Selling Dystopian Novel” playing out in real life. All of a sudden, we were cleaning out lockers, I was frantically trying to make sure all my students had a few books tucked in their backpacks as we loaded them on buses for a two week shutdown. At least, we thought it would be a two week shut down. And. . . you know how this story goes. I found myself at home worried about my students watching the news, seeing the death tolls on their devices, and trying to process all this sadness and change.
After a few days of being home, and wondering if we would go back to school, and waiting for decisions to be made I found myself on Twitter trying to connect with my online teacher and author community. That’s when a little sunshine peeked through the dark clouds, Tamara Bundy. You probably know Tamara for her debut middle grade novel Walking with Miss Millie, and if you don’t, you should order it today!
Tamara had just published her second novel Pixie Pushes On in January. Set in the 1940’s, the main character, Prudence, is struggling to push on after losing her mother to illness, while clinging to hope that her older sister will recover from Polio. It is a story of love and loss, grieving and pushing forward, embracing the small joys, finding your people, and holding onto them tightly during scary times. Tamara announced that she had obtained permission to start an online book club with her new book to help teachers and students during the pandemic. She spent hours reading, recording, and discussing Pixie’s story with us. I invited the entire school to join in the read aloud, and I continue to be grateful for the experience daily. Pixie has brought us together. She has reminded us that there is hope. She was so relatable to the students who, like her. were lonely or sad. I have students reaching out to me with connections to their own experiences right now. Kids have been writing to me that they wrote to the author, and how magical that was when she wrote them back. Even now, some students are just now learning about the read aloud, but they’re starting at the beginning at their own pace. Kids have been emailing asking me if we are going to do another School-Wide Read Aloud because they loved it. The Bundy Book Club experience has brought comfort, joy, and given the kids something to look forward to during some very difficult days.
Tamara Bundy, like many wonderful authors out there, reminded us it truly takes a village to raise and support these beautiful kids of ours. And we are grateful for the help. I truly believe that Pixie Pushes On belongs in every middle grade classroom library, and I encourage you to purchase a copy to give yourself a bit of hope during this time. Push on, friends.
Kris Barr Paquette has been a reading teacher for 21 years at Marshall Greene Middle School in Birch Run, Michigan. She currently is the Title I Reading Specialist servicing fifth through eighth grades. Her class participates in #KidsNeedMentors. She’s a Harry Potter fan, a true Gryffindor- if you must know, and an avid reader. When you don’t find her at school, she’ll most likely be reading on her front porch. You can connect with her on Twitter: @Readingteachkbp