Volney Elementary School recently had a very special visiting author, Patricia Polacco. The world-famous author and illustrator shared her personal story of struggle and overcoming learning disabilities that made her unable to read until she was 14 years old.
“When you look at me you see a very successful author,” she told the students, “I grew up a learning disabled child.”
Polacco struggled in school, but her liberation came through art. “For me, art is like breathing,” she said.
She began to draw and paint, and later continued with her art, but it wasn’t until the age of 41 that she wrote her first book: “Meteorite.” The book tells the story of a meteorite that crashed into her grandparents’ yard when her mother was a young girl. The meteorite became an important piece in their family’s history and people came from all over to see it and wish upon it. A meteorite is also known as a falling star, and many believe that if you wish upon a falling star it will come true.
Polacco brought a small piece of the original stone with her for the students to see and later make a wish.
Before wishing, she explained that they would need to be careful what they wished for and warned that wishes can have an impact on others.
She gave the students three criteria to think about before making their wish: 1) you can’t wish for money; 2) you cannot change other people with this; and 3) the wish you make has to be an unselfish act that benefits others.
Polacco’s inspiration for many of her books came from her family and many stories her grandmother told her as she was growing up. “I come from an amazing family of storytellers,” she said.
Her family also did not own a television, which left Polacco to use her imagination for entertainment. Her advice to other would-be writers? “Turn off the television and listen to your inner voice,” she said, encouraging the students to write down their thoughts and dreams.
She also shared with the students an important message of kindness and tolerance.
Growing up with learning disabilities was difficult and she encouraged the students to reach out to individuals in their school and community by showing respect and kindness. “You were born with the power to change people by how you treat them,” she said. “Treat them with love and kindness. Be kind to each other. you will never regret it.”
Polacco’s visit to Volney Elementary School was coordinated through the Oswego County BOCES’ Arts-In-Education service.