Last Wednesday, KCOS, our local PBS station, held a celebration for the winners of the PBS Kids Writers Contest. First through fourth place winners read their stories aloud while their illustrations were projected behind them. The little contestants ranged from kindergarten through fifth grade.
I attended the event and was immediately reminded of my early days of storytelling. Before I could even write, I would illustrate stories, ask my grandpa to write down what I wanted (to this day, his penmanship trumps mine) and would ask teachers if they could read it to the class.
In fourth grade, I also entered a writing contest, where I placed third. It was a big deal for me, not only because it was rare that I was praised for anything academic, as a student who struggled with math among other things, but also because my name was announced over the school intercom.
What made that moment especially memorable was the fact that the story came from a hard place. That year, I lost my grandma to cancer.
I was her chiplona – that’s Mexican slang for spoiled girl – and to lose her was to lose my second mom. While her health was depleting, my family and I were fortunate enough to be around her until her last days. Those days were especially tough because she was in a coma.
We were at her house, and a staple of ours for scrapes and burns was a good ol’ tub of Vaseline. One day while at my grandma’s, my little cousin Austin, who was probably about 2 years old, found it and decided it was there to help him sculpt his hair into spikey perfection. He ran about looking like a toddler out of “SLC Punk!”
Austin’s gift of comedic relief was the inspiration behind my “award” winning essay. It’s funny how experiences like that, and all of those precious moments with my writing partner/grandpa, helped sculpt who I am today.
Looking at the room full of kids, I was filled with so much hope. We’re constantly told that the passion to read and write is diminishing thanks to the abundance of videos and video games. But in that room packed with kids and their parents, it was evident that technology can actually encourage children’s storytelling abilities.
I was also filled with hope, because in times of political turmoil and inevitable anger coming from adults, I acknowledge that these little guys often have wise old souls. We spend so much time teaching them, but how much time do we take to learn from them?
For our question of the week, I decided to take the opportunity to learn from kids, both at the KCOS event and while taking a stroll at San Jacinto Plaza. The resounding answer that nearly all of them had? We should all learn to have a little more fun and play. No surprise there!
I hope our roundup of free summer concerts inspires you to spend more fun time outdoors – but most importantly – I hope that you find that every day is an opportunity to find that inner kid.