Dear Teachers, Principals, & Library Media Specialists,
Here we are in the 2016-17 school year. Already. And I can’t believe this is my 25th anniversary of doing school author visits! How can that be????
My first school visit was when my son was two years old (he just turned 27). He and I went to a friend’s school where I read a story to her daughter’s class. It was a small story I had published in Highlight’s for Children Magazine. Spencer was so small, he stood on an orange chair like this one (right) and held up the magazine for all the children to see the pictures. Now, he’s “Ranger Beard”, a 6’3” park ranger at Capulin National Volcano Park in New Mexico.
When my daughter was born, six years after her brother, I’d take her on school visits with me. In fact, my first school visit was when she was one month old and I took her in a stroller and nursed her between my sessions. I also remember taking her to Encyclo-Media when she was three months old in her little umbrella stroller like this one (to the left) as I autographed books. Now, she’s 20 years old and going to OCCC, and still unsure what to major in.
When I think about how my writing career began, I go back to fourth grade when I had a little black and white composition book that looked similar to this (to the right). I remember sitting in my den, watching the “Brady Bunch” and writing this sentence in my book over and over, amazed at how beautiful it was and how it created a picture with words:
‘The leaves fell from the trees making a golden carpet. ‘ I was quite proud of that sentence and that’s when I knew there was something magical about writing. But it wasn’t until fifth grade when I fell in love with writing stories with my spelling words and met my teacher, Mrs. Schickling, who made us write stories with our spelling words that I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
Here’s a photo of Mrs. Schickling now. Isn’t she pretty? I remember Mrs. Schickling putting her arm around my shoulder saying, “Darleen, if you work really hard at this, I think you can write a real book when you grow up.” And you know what? I was young enough to believe her. I took her words for the truth because teachers told the truth—they didn’t lie—and if she thought I was a writer, well then, I was a writer! That’s the power of a teacher’s words.
I’m extremely proud of my books and the fact I’ve been visiting schools, doing author visits for 25 wonderful years. What a career—how lucky I am to be able to touch the lives of thousands of students all over the U.S. And for the students to touch my life, too!
It’s been a fantastic 25-year journey and I can only say, here’s to another happy 25 years touching students’ lives and fulfilling my 5th-grade teacher’s belief in me that I— 10-year old Darleen Bailey, shy, tall, skinny, totally awkward, and raised in a crazy, dysfunctional family—could become a real writer when I grew up. Thank you, Mrs. Schickling! You’ll never know how much of a difference you made in my life!
And thank you to ALL the teachers, principals, and library media specialists this school year that are reaching out, touching lives, loving, and encouraging children to be the very best they can be. You’re making a big difference in children’s lives—I should know, because I am one of those children.