At age 8, my daughter already knows she wants to go to Harvard. She hasn’t made up her mind about what she wants to do yet: she has said she wants to be a pediatrician, an astronaut, or a teacher. When she first told us about her plans, her stepfather and I were extremely proud and encouraging.
In Bed-Stuy, I don’t hear many kids talk about going to Ivy League colleges. Most students don’t come home from school eager to talk about the books they read or the fun math challenges they solved. I know this because our son is in a traditional high school, and he is not as enthusiastic about school as Gabriella is.
Gabriella says her teachers are her role models. She is focused and driven because of them. Since kindergarten, they have encouraged her to work hard and aim high. They have taught her to read and write and love learning. She can’t stop talking about Ms. Mertz and Mr. Hernandez and what she and her classmates learn every day.
Thanks to them, Gabriella is now a published author.
Earlier this school year, Gabriella came home and wanted to talk about her day. I was studying for my nursing exam and couldn’t be interrupted, so I told her to read a book. “I’m not reading a book,” she said. “I’m going to write one.” She sat across from me and started writing. When I was finished, I saw that she was still working. I asked how her book was coming along, and she showed me nine pages.
“I want to tell you that this book is going to blow your mind,” she wrote in the introduction. I thought the story she had written was wonderful. She used a lot of details to describe a day in her life and even included illustrations, headings, and text features she had learned about in writing class. My husband and I were so impressed that we told her we would get the story published as a book.
At the time, neither of us knew anything about publishing. My husband is a postal worker, and I am a registered nurse. But we did some research and found a publisher who agreed to turn Gabriella’s manuscript into a book. She wrote 16 more pages to complete the story, which is titled, “A Little About Me.”
The book has been translated into French (a Spanish version will be out soon) and is for sale on Amazon.com. As soon as our relatives abroad heard about it, they called to say they were very proud of her. “Our little Gabriella is an author!” one of them said. Gabriella was so excited that she asked us to start a college fund so she can use the proceeds from the book sales to pay for her tuition at Harvard.
When Ms. Mertz heard that Gabriella’s story was being published, she was so excited that she agreed to write a blurb for the book. “This book is just one way that Gabriella pushes herself to go beyond Z!” Ms. Mertz wrote. She also invited Gabriella to talk to the class. She read her book aloud and got compliments from her classmates. They especially liked the illustrations.
At the end, Gabriella gave her fellow students some advice: “If you liked my book, try making your own.”