Introducing Young Writers at the Coffee Shop

The Sixth and seventh graders of the Happy Valley Writing Club were invited to read at the Rain or Shine Coffee Shop located at 60th and Division in Portland, Oregon. This invitation brought with it a lot of pride and some fear.

Stephanie, Long, Emma, Amanda, Vanisa, Natalia, with Priscilla

Stephanie, Long, Emma, Amanda, Vanisa, Natalia, with Priscilla

“I’m not a good reader,” whispered one sixth grader to me.

“But you are an excellent writer, so we’ll work on the reading. Not one of us is a good reader without practice, and that includes your teacher.”

She didn’t believe me, of course. I read aloud to them a lot.

So, I had to demonstrate how I used to read in public. I stood on one leg and jingled the change in my pocket. I mumbled with my head down, gaze buried deeply into my paper. My speaking speed was ninety miles an hour. I finished with, “I guess that’s all. It’s not very good.” And then I sat down abruptly.

That very honest demonstration brought hoots of laughter from the members. “Really?” Stephanie shouted. “That’s not true.”

“Not only true, but the story was long and I’m pretty sure even my mom was asleep when I finally stopped.”

Jelena and Amanda

Jelena and Amanda

“We can do better than that,” Amanda laughed.

“And so you can. Let’s get to work and be ready for our night at Rain or Shine.”

Rain or Shine Coffee Shop has worked with mystery writer Bill Cameron, and now with Oregon Writers Colony to host readings on Thursdays. The readers who are featured are usually adults with a lot of practice bringing their audience a great story.

We needed to work toward this event. So, for a few Writing Club meetings weeks prior to the evening reading, the students practiced reading slowly and clearly. We had good laughs and realized our distracting habits. We learned to look confident. We learn to look at the audience at the end of paragraphs, (creating a chance to take a good breath).

I knew that the mike at Rain or Shine is uni-directional, so if we turn our head to read toward the right side of the audience, the mike can’t pick up our voices. We tried to practice staying on the pretend mike that we had.

We had a whole lesson on pronouncing the consonants in words. Thus, during our Thursday night reading, there were a few jokes about not going to Mill School, but Middle School.

Natalia, Jelena, Amanda

Natalia, Jelena, Amanda

Eight of the twelve students read on that night. We shared fictional stories about the aftermath of an auto accident, the breakup of a family, learning to appreciate the protective parent and some very frightening encounters with fantastic monsters. The students did extremely well. I am proud of how well they write and of how well they read. They are an amazing bunch.

We had great fun. Thanks Rain or Shine and Oregon Writers Colony for putting this challenge before us.

And by the way, I am on the lookout for a mike to use when we practice in the future. So, if any of you have an idea where to look for an affordable mike, let me know.

Jared & his lucky Pen

Jared & his lucky Pen