Attention teachers early in your career! Dear Toni presents an intriguing lesson idea for journal writing. When Gene Tuck moves to a new school, one of the first assignments she is is given, is to write a journal to another sixth grader. The intriguing part is that the students are writing to sixth grade students, 40 YEARS IN THE FUTURE! Cool, right?
The problem is that Gene is unhappy in her new school and this "lame" journal assignment just adds to the frustration. Gene's family is forced to move away from the only home she has ever known due to her father losing his job. When they move, they live in a small, run down apartment until her father finds a job. When her teacher assigns the journal project, writing for exactly 100 consecutive days, to a future sixth grader, Gene nearly loses it. Her writings start out very negative and petty, but as she goes on, she finds that the journal allows her a release for her new school stress and doodling creativity. At first she addresses her entries to Dear Nobody because, as Gene says, "you have no body!" As her attitude changes the recipient of the journal gets the name Toni and the entries begin to get more positive. As the reader you get to go through a lot of Gene teen angst from trying to fit in with the popular kids to losing a new best friend.
Now I know that none of you can have your kids write to a class 40 years in the future, but what about 10 or 15? If I was earlier in my career I would be all over this concept. I'm not sure I would put the 100 days on it or if it would be an entire year project. Include newspaper headlines of the day, prices of common items, reflections on class and extracurriculars. When the year is over, stick them away, I would probably have to write a note to remind myself where I put them, and pull them out in 10 or 15 years. I would think that the number of years needs to be long enough that the class that writes them is well out of high school for a better impact. Somehow, giving the journal a sense of purpose, seems like it might make the writing more real to the students. In Dear Toni, the teacher doesn't grade the journals, but keeps tabs to make sure the kids are keeping up, I could go either way on this, maybe making some of the entries for grades and others not, either way, I think this could be a pretty awesome experience for kids, especially if it was possible to contact them in the future and invite them back when the journals are distributed.
I liked this book pretty well and think kids will too, it's written in a very kid friendly voice.