￼Teachers Make Readers (and Writers) by Danielle Davis
I arrived in Mr. P’s kindergarten classroom not knowing how to read and not knowing that by patiently sitting with me, he would be the key to unlock my ability to parse words and sentences and the worlds they contain.
But he was.
I arrived in Mrs. A’s fourth grade classroom not knowing that by reading middle grade novels aloud to our class while we all sat on bean bag chairs together, she would be the key to unlock my love of magical, comforting, adventurous stories, of the possibility reading contains.
But she was.
Now I have a new and debut picture book, To Make, with art by Mags DeRoma. The dedication page contains two portraits on the left side that illustrator Mags created from photos I provided. One is of brown-mustached Mr. P, who loved taking tap dancing lessons with fellow teachers. One is of Mrs. A, with a blanket of black hair down her back who loved singing folk songs. Both taught at Singapore American School, which I attended for all my elementary grades. Both were caring adults in my life when I desperately needed some. The portraits are a little tribute to them and their unmistakable influence on me as a reader and writer (and eventual author).
The book itself is about the creative process and what I believe are its steps, no matter what you’re making: “gather, make, wait.”
These two teachers, and so many like them, gathered materials: books, patience, time, effort, chairs—one small and stiff, one soft and filled with beans. They gathered me and the other children in my class as well as those that preceded and followed, in classrooms filled with collected memories and décor. They gathered inspiration, I would guess, from songs and tap dances and other experiences from their lives. They gathered their imaginations and their desire and capacity to share love, which is really what teaching and reading are at their heart.
These two teachers made a circle-shaped space, one large enough for just the two of us, one large enough for a whole room of nine-year-olds. They made voices, sounds, gestures. They made room for me, room for each child. To be. To learn. To dream.
These two teachers waited, class after class, day after day, year after year, not knowing exactly, I think, how their efforts would seed or sprout, but assured they would because they believed in the power of teaching, of reading, of love.
I don’t know how many other students of theirs still write in any sustained way. I don’t know how many still love reading as I do—some definitely must.
But they made us all the same.
They made me who I am, that is for sure.
A maker of sentences, poems, phrases, and stories.
A lover of words strung together to make imaginary worlds full of possibility for children.
Mr. P and Mrs. A aren’t the only ones. There are myriad teachers who do this every hour in classrooms and at desks and while sitting on bean bag chairs.
Teachers make readers.
Teachers make writers.
They make worlds and possibility.
And they made me.
She’s got an MA in literature and creative writing and has had the privilege of teaching English to middle school and community college students. Her blog is This Picture Book Life. Her YouTube channel for kids is This Writer’s Life, and through it she’s part of the team at KidLit TV.
She likes to make anything out of words.