Updated: Mar 4
Casa Esperanza Montessori Charter School (Casa) is a 501(c)(3) charter school that's located in the heart of Wake Forest, NC. It's a charter school that offers a dual language curriculum in concert with a Montessori philosophy. Montessori is a method of learning that is based off of self-directed activities, hands on learning, and collaborative play. Casa builds students to become global citizens by strengthening their leadership and critical thinking skills through this approach.
With all of that in mind, Casa decided to celebrate Read Across America Day by inviting local authors to read, inspire, build community, and cultivate relationships with with their students, faculty, and parents. My daughter, Haelee and I had the distinct honor and privilege of being invited back for the second year in a row. Haelee was unable to attend due to illness so I happily filled in for her. I read her award winning book, The Rules of a Little Boss: A Book of Self-Love to a classroom full of elementary school students. I shared with them the importance of self-love and embracing the things that make them different. I told them that the things that make them different are their individual dose of magic and that's what makes them uniquely special from everyone else. That in itself led to a conversation where we all began to share the things that made us different. Some of the children shared that they were double jointed, while others shared that they are asthmatic. I on the other hand shared that I have a lazy eye while sharing the story about how it came about. The most beautiful part of all is that the children showered me with hugs while sharing that they wanted to be authors too. I told them to talk to their teacher, ask their parents, have them contact me, and perhaps we could come up with something like a classroom book or something like that.
I met with the middle school classes immediately thereafter. And let me tell you, they were a riot. The first group of students asked if I was famous as soon as I entered the room. I laughed and said, "Of course I am. I mean I'm here meeting with y'all after all" as we all burst into laughter. They immediately went into an uproar as they all started begging for my autograph. I responded, "This isn't an autograph signing. I'm here to read. All autograph requests will cost $5.00" as the room burst into laughter yet again. I then preceded to read my award winning book, Dear Daughter: A Love Story to them with background stories and jokes in between the pages. One joke in particular led to the entire student body wanting to arm wrestle me as I autographed their books, book-markers, hoodies, and other items of the sort. The second group of middle schoolers told me that they didn't want me to read. They said that they'd rather I just have a conversation with them instead. I sat down at the front of the classroom and just opened up about my life, journey to get to where I am today, purpose in being an author, fatherhood, etc. In that aspect I told them that I just shared what Dear Daughter: A Love Story was about without my ever reading the book. I also shared with them that I gave them a preview of what my upcoming book, Joy Comes entails. After hearing it, one young lady asked me if I could be her dad. I laughed and said, "Heck no. I don't like kids. I don't even know why y'all have me here because I don't even like my own daughter sometimes" as we all burst into tears laughing. I told her and them that I was only kidding and that I would be honored to be the classroom dad if they'd have me. They then asked me if I could please read Dear Daughter to them because they were ready to hear it. I retorted that life was all about choices and that there wasn't enough time to read it but that I would be back if they would have me.
The day concluded with my having the privilege of sitting down to share stories, network, laugh, and shed a tear or two with other amazing authors and writers. Some of them were old friends, like Sherricka Carpenter-Stanley and some of them were new. Some of those new friends were Carolina Fonseca Jimenez and Alexis Jackson to name a few. Carolina is the author of the Lupita series of books. Lupita takes readers on a tour of exploration of Mexico and the dream world through her colorfully illustrated books. You can learn more about Carolina and check out her books by going here. Alexis Jackson is the author of People Who Look Like Me and a fellow alumnus of NC A&T SU (AGGIE PRIDE!!!!). Her book celebrates the determination of an autistic child named Alex. Alex brings people together through inclusion, collaboration, and friendship in this truly delightful and inspirational book. You can check out this book by going here.
With all of that being said, it's obvious that Casa has built a little community in and of itself. But not only that, it's a magical place. Because of that, each one of us participating authors and writers have been invited back to visit Casa anytime especially during the next Read Across America Day. I can't speak for everyone but Haelee and I will certainly be back as promised.
How did y’all celebrate Read Across America Day?