I had such a wonderful time celebrating World Read Aloud Day with students and educators this week. What a delight to meet so many energetic students and their teachers. I was struck by how many young people are genuinely excited about reading, and prepared thoughtful, fascinating questions for these events. I was also moved by how many of these students care deeply about animals and the environment. I had as many questions about turtles and how to help them as I did about books and writing.

I met a class of fifth graders who are headstarting turtle hatchlings in their classrooms, in the same Zoo New England conservation program that inspired the writing of Trouble at Turtle Pond. (I had to chuckle at this picture of tiny me next to the ginormous turtle slides — a complete reversal of real-life scale!) That was an especially fun visit since these students knew a lot about Blanding’s turtles (the stars of my book) and are having some of the same experiences as the characters in Trouble at Turtle Pond – minus the poachers and the peril!

After the visits, I had to marvel at technology and how far we have come. It’s incredible be able to zoom into another state, to talk to multiple classrooms across a school district on Google Meet, while still feeling a personal connection to every individual student who comes up to their camera to ask a question or offer a comment.

I’m also in awe of the logistics of hosting WRAD at schools. I am grateful to the teachers and librarians who put these events together. Whether they’re organizing one classroom or fifteen, it takes time and effort to reach out to authors, pace out the visits, get kids into classrooms and into listening mode, facilitate Q&A sessions.

World Read Aloud Day doesn’t just have to be on February 2! It occurred to me that I tend to inhale books these days, making my way through a large reading list and across devices. I listen to audiobooks at faster speeds, and note my percentage progress on my kindle. But reading aloud forces me to slow down, to savor, to experience the words and ideas differently. So I plan to make time to read some passages aloud this year, especially when I’m reading poetry and essays, and carry some of the spirit of World Read Aloud Day into my regular reading life.