5/1/17

Dear Jerry Spinelli...

Dear Jerry Spinelli,

In my 17th year of teaching, I was given the privilege of teaching reading to a group of 8th grade students for the very first time. I was nervous, but excited! Reading is such an important skill… necessary for success in every aspect of life. But even beyond than that, reading is something that can ENRICH your life in so many ways. Middle school students don’t often enjoy reading it seems. They read because they have to. I had many goals for myself as a first-year reading teacher, but at the top of my list was to try to give the students a reading experience they could enjoy. No, I might not be able to turn them all into voracious readers, but maybe, just maybe, I could find a book that would resonate with them… a story that would grab their attention. And perhaps, even if they never read another book simply for pleasure, they could look back on their 8th grade year and say, “I liked THAT book.”

I searched for books most of the summer, trying to find something age-appropriate, that had a bit of everything… humor, relationships, life lessons… something that would appeal to both 8th grade girls and 8th grade boys. My search led me to “Stargirl”. 

In my wildest imagination, I could not have imagined the students’ response to the book. They latched on to Stargirl’s story, grasped the underlying messages behind the plot, and just thoroughly enjoyed reading it. So much so they asked over and over again if we could read the sequel, “Love, Stargirl”. So, in the last part of the school year, I announced that we would indeed be reading “Love, Stargirl”. Their excitement was evident… they couldn’t wait! As we began reading together in class and discussing the things in the book, it was like visiting with old friends, welcoming them into our lives again after a long absence. 

We read the last several chapters of “Love, Stargirl” together… with me reading aloud to them. When I read the last word of book, the students applauded. Let me repeat that. THE STUDENTS APPLAUDED. ABOUT A BOOK. And it wasn’t my reading skills they were clapping about. It was the book. The story. They applauded your story. And I knew I’d done what I set out to do... to give the students an experience with reading that they could enjoy, one they would remember. Your books helped me accomplish that.

I asked them all to write a letter to you and tell you about their experiences reading your books. The letters are below. I hope you’ll be as pleased as I am to read that so many of them learned to not judge others on appearances, to be “okay” with being a little different, to never give up hope, and to keep moving forward no matter what life throws at you. 

As an author myself, I know that hearing from readers is incredibly meaningful. I hope our experiences with your Stargirl books re-affirm that what you’ve created is not only enjoyable… but important.

Thank you for helping me bring a love of reading to my students… even if it’s only for a little while.

Amy Durham

***

Dear Jerry Spinelli,

I enjoyed your books. There were so many emotions I experienced while reading them. I learned to just be yourself and not someone you’re not, and not to judge someone by their looks until you get to know them better. I have changed by reading these books. These books were awesome and they have really helped me in many ways.

Sincerely,
Gracie

***

Dear Jerry Spinelli,

Your book “Love, Stargirl” is really an amazing book. It really hits a lot of points about teenage life. I like how your book tells the life of a girl, but you do it like a journal, which is cool. I think your book made me understand myself better. I’m like Stargirl. I always tried to fit in and finally I learned it’s ok just to be myself. I also learned it’s not right to judge people if you don’t know the whole story. The characters that you talked about in this book all had problems, and Stargirl had problems, too, and I liked how you made the characters help each other through the book. This book has taught me how to trust myself, trust others, believe in myself, and never give up on the ones you love. Thank you for writing this book.

Anna

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Dear Jerry Spinelli,

My experiences with both Stargirl books have been awesome. Stargirl has an awesome lesson to be learned. It teaches us that it is okay to be different. I loved reading about Stargirl because I can relate my life to some of the stuff in the books. Stargirl has changed me. I think that being “weird” is cool now. Thanks for writing such amazing books.

Piper

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Dear Jerry Spinelli,

I am writing to you today to tell you about your two wonderful books, “Stargirl” and “Love, Stargirl”. It has made me see that it’s okay to be yourself and to stand up for yourself. Not only that, but also to live life to the fullest and be free. I hope you continue writing books like this one.

Yours truly, 
Natalie

***

Dear Jerry Spinelli,

These books have influenced me. “Stargirl” and  “Love, Stargirl” taught  me to be myself and to love all people. It’s also taught me to face my fears, not run away from them. It taught me to worry less and never be afraid to make new friends. These books were very inspiring, so thank you for writing them.

With love, 
Gabby

***

Dear Jerry Spinelli,

“Stargirl” and “Love, Stargirl” have really taught me a lot. Mostly, the character Stargirl taught me how to be myself. Stargirl was always herself and when people judged her for who she was, she still stayed the same.

8th Grade Student

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Dear Mr. Spinelli,

Stargirl and her story have affected me as a person. Between her adventures and crazy moments, I learned “don’t jump to conclusions”. I thought “Love, Stargirl” would have a totally different ending!

Madison

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Dear Jerry Spinelli,

These books have affected me greatly. They have taught me to be more confident… to be “me”, not somebody else. Also, they’ve taught me not to judge a book by it’s cover.

Ashley

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Dear Jerry Spinelli,

I absolutely love your books, “Stargirl” and “Love, Stargirl”. They’re so relatable and they just take everything off my mind. Thank you so much.

Kali

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Dear Jerry Spinelli,

These stories have had an affect on me, especially concerning treating other people with respect. I’ve learned it’s not all about me; it’s about other people who have other needs.

8th Grade Student

***

Dear Jerry,

I’m just a random kid telling you about how good your book, “Love, Stargirl” is. This is probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. Keep it up!

Sincerely,
Jonah

***

Dear Jerry Spinelli,

I have read both “Stargirl” and “Love, Stargirl”. These books taught me that I never have to change myself to be what others want me to be. Thank you for writing these books.

Olivia

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Dear Jerry Spinelli,

Thanks to your books I’ve learned it’s ok to be myself instead of what everyone else wants me to be.

8th Grade Student

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Dear Mr. Spinelli,

Your books are amazing. The two Stargirl books truly warm my heart. They inspire me to be myself. They teach me about life. So thank you for entertaining me with the story of Stargirl and Leo.

Sincerely,
Serenity

***

Dear Jerry,

Thank you for showing me it’s ok to be yourself and stand out.

8th Grade Reading Student

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Dear Jerry Spinelli,

I was never much of a reader all my life. Books never interested me, but two of your books, “Stargirl” and “Love, Stargirl” did get my attention. Both tell a really interesting story about someone who is different. In my case, I am a little different too like Stargirl.

Sincerely,
8th Grade Student

***

Dear Jerry Spinelli,

Reading “Love, Stargirl” was a good experience. It changed my outlook on life. I learned about actual situations that can affect people. They were special to me because I can relate to several things. I learned that life can be very unpredictable.

Savannah


***

Dear Jerry Spinelli,

Your Stargirl books show me that it’s ok to be a little different. I see a little of myself in her. All of your characters are so interesting. I love them all, but Alvina is one of my favorites. I know this isn’t really a long letter, but I just want you to know I really, really, really love your Stargirl books.

Sincerely,
Maylee

***

Dear Jerry Spinelli,

“Love, Stargirl” is a really great book. It takes your through life, and it makes you think more about life. I’ve learned to let things go and to forgive and forget. And when times get hard, I’ve learned there will always be light in the end.

8th Grade Student

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Dear Jerry Spinelli,

"Stargirl" and "Love, Stargirl" are some of the best books. I love them. They make you think about life. Stargirl makes you think positive and makes you not be scared, because we are all going to have challenges in life. 

Daphney

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Dear Jerry Spinelli,

I love both your Stargirl books. They just speak to me, especially "Love, Stargirl".

Sincerely,
Evan




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