Thursday morning I rolled to Venerini Academy to read to Sister Roberta’s 5th grade class. They were having some sort of community reading day thing, and I was invited by Pam G., who is one of the school’s parent-volunteers. A bunch of us (including a Coast Guard Band musician, an attorney, etc.) were matched up with a specific class and had an hour to talk to the students and read something of our own choosing. I am not really connected with the pop-culture world of 5th graders, but I figured there was some interest in vampire literature. Surely enough, when I asked the students what they read, they all answered Twilight and Vampire Diaries. I told them I had the granddaddy of them all – Dracula – and read a few excerpts from the beginning (Harker arrives at the Castle, the shaving incident, and Harker seeing the Count crawl down the castle wall head-first). We had a great discussion about suspense, the purpose of the author going into detail of the scenery, etc., and good and evil. The novel remains a model of the stark difference between good and evil, whereas these modern vampire novels have a different agenda. The students were fabulous and totally into it.
After reading to the class I was brought to the library and chatted with some of the mothers, who offer their time to the school with enthusiasm and generosity, as well as the staff. The whole experience reminded my of my Catholic elementary school experience – volunteers helping the understaffed school, as well as the astonishing demands on elementary school teachers. One teacher has the same students all day long and has to make science, math, history, English and whatever else interesting and relevant to high-energy students who are inside for much of the day.
A final note – we have many Cathedral kids at Venerini, and I got to see a bunch of them. One particular highlight was seeing Lia M. in her Latin class. Yes, Latin is required at the school. I floated the idea of Lia reading the gospel in Latin at next year’s Agape service, and have no doubt she would make a great reader.