There is nothing quite as touching as watching a group of children sitting quietly, though quite anxiously, for their names to be called to receive a special gift. We see it every day but yesterday I really felt it.
During our morning Reading Party, 4-year old Louis needed a reading partner and that was me. Louis had black hair, spiked up a bit, and a very round cherub-like face. He was so adorable. He was also shy but he smiled easily. Louis (such a grown-up name I thought!) nodded "yes" when I asked him if he would like me to read with him. He took my hand without hesitation and my heart melted. We walked into our Scholastic Book Nook to find his perfect book.
"What do you like?" I asked Louis. "Animals? Superman? Dinosaurs?"
"ALEXANDER!" he exclaimed as he reached for the colorful paperback titled, Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move.
"I love Alexander!" I told Louis.
He smiled big. I smiled big.
Together we went in search of a place to sit. Twenty children and twenty volunteer readers make a fun filled - and crowded - reading party. Every coupling finds their very own area of the floor or reading room to call their own. Many of the children and volunteers choose a place right on our colorful rugs for comfy, Indian-style sitting while others find beanbag chairs to lounge cozily on together. Some of the children are drawn to our Carter's Children's Gallery where colorful chairs and tables make for comfortable reading partners.
He wanted us to sit on the floor so I lead him to our big Alphabet rug.
"Let's sit on "L" for Louis," I excitedly suggested.
"Can you find "L?" I asked him.
There we sat. Me, with my legs in a very cramped position and wishing I could move, and Louis extremely comfortable leaning on me as he listened to every word I read about how Alexander did not want to move!
When it was time for everyone's special surprise, the children were directed to sit facing the front in rows. Then we began. One of us called a child's name and pulled out a beautiful pair of new pajamas tied with a ribbon from our giant Pajama bag! Everyone clapped as we waited for that child to jump up and come up to get his or her gift. One by one we read each child's name and handed over a gift. We want each child to feel really special, to know their gift was chosen just for him or her and tied with that curly ribbon with love. It was pure joy for all of us. I really don't know who is thrilled more - we who give the pajamas or the children who receive them.
I heard Louis' name called and I was elated. I watched him stand and bashfully walk up to the front with a big grin on his face. He glanced at me with pride. I cheered and clapped as if he were my own child who had just won the county spelling bee. My heart swelled and my eyes watered. "That's my boy," I thought to myself. It may sound silly, but I'll bet every volunteer in the room was thinking the same thing when her child's name was called. We may be the ones giving the children pajamas and books but they give us an even greater gift.