The reply:Mr. Kotlowitz,I am a second-year teacher at an affluent public high school **in the Midwest**. My class and I just finished reading your novel There Are No Children Here, and I am writing to let you know how much it meant to us.While the majority of the school is very wealthy, I teach lower-tracked students, and my students are often living in poverty. So, many of them understood very well what the Riverses were going through, and I understood what you must have been going through watching them live that way.I've struggled this year with this class. They are not readers, many because of home-life (or lack of), some because of disabilities and some simply because they don't want to be. I have had to work with them and find creative ways to get them to read everything this year...except your novel. And I want to thank you for that. While it may not have turned them into avid readers, it has, at least, taught them that reading can be enjoyable. And they have enjoyed reading this novel. For whatever reason it spoke to them. This helped to get me excited because I had students coming in to discuss the characters and their situations on their own time. Many of them were chapters ahead of what was assigned, and they were eager to discuss it with one another. I have never seen them that excited before, about anything. So, thank you for letting me see that in my students.I'd also like to thank you for helping me to see what my students' lives are like. I am a second-year teacher, as I said, and I'm somewhat naive, I suppose. But in discussions with this novel, I learned so much about my students and the struggles they go through on a daily basis. Because I grew up in a middle class home, I take that for granted and forget that not everyone does. My students picked up on the title immediately, many because the idea is applicable to their own lives. While they don't deal with the violence outside their homes as the Riverses do, they understand the poverty, and some experience the violence inside their homes. So, they really did understand this novel.I'm sure you get letters like this often, and in fact, I've seen some on websites, but I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated you telling the children's stories. My children are so proud that they've read this novel from cover-to-cover, something many of them have never done before.As a final assignment, they are writing letters to you to share their experiences with your novel; however, I wanted to send mine and share my appreciation.Sincerely,
**Anonymous High School**
Dear **Anonymous**, A much belated thank you for your note -- and for your kind words. It's always good to hear from teachers whose students got engaged with Pharoah and Lafeyette, especially students whose only lives mirror their lives. I hope you can pass along my regards to your students from last year. best, alex kotlowitzI was simply in awe that this author took the time to write a reply to my email. I never expected it. I can't wait to visit my kids on Tuesday and let them know that Alex Kotlowitz sends his regards. They'll be thrilled.
Also, sorry for the hiatus...beginning of the year business. I know you all understand. I'm taking a long weekend on top of my long weekend and visiting a friend in Oklahoma. I'm actually missing being in the classroom today, but I have a friend subbing, so I know that my classroom is safe from the monkeys.
I really hope the first few weeks have gone well for all of you!!