Reading is contagious, especially in a pandemic : My favorite part of the day was after lunch, when Mrs. Sandberg asked us to fold our arms on our desks and rest our heads while she read to us.

Her kind and steady voice transported me to magical places where animals could talk and where kids, far braver than I, and probably with upper body strength, had grand adventures.

At the end of second grade - I received an award for perfect attendance. I had not missed a single day of school, not because I never got sick, but because I refused to stay home and miss story hour.

Any of Mrs. Sandberg's unfinished stories was a cliff-hangar for me.

And thus it was with the joyful memory of being read to that I named our group the Coronavirus Book Club : Reading is Contagious!

At the first session, five kids showed up. I read to them and tried to engage in conversation. Whenever I asked a question, I was met with complete silence.

The following week, a few more kids showed up; they hesitantly started responding, but with one -word answers. I started singing my questions, imitating bad opera. I told them that I would continue singing until someone answered. Who knows the absence of vocal talent was an asset? The kids started answering more questions.

The next session, they gave longer answers and more students participated in the conversations. I sang less.

The Coronavirus Book Club has quickly become the highlight of my week. I have slowly gotten to know the students and have grown fond of every single one of them.

They have gone from being kids who never said a word to kids who are steadily but hesitantly sharing tidbits of their lives with me. I have seen their younger siblings on video, who are invited to stay and listen.

Reading out loud forces me to forget everything else for an hour. Immersed in a book, there is no pandemic, no rampant unemployment, nor is the country divided. I am on an amusement ride totally engrossed in a different world.

I recently wondered if our post-lunch reading hour gave Mrs. Sandberg a chance to forget her world, too.

The year 1972 was not an easy one. There was an unimaginable terrorist attack in Munich, Watergate was unfolding, and the Vietnam War raged on. The future looked frightening and uncertain.

Of course, I didn't know any of that. All I knew was that I loved Mrs. Sandberg and I couldn't wait to hear what clever thing Charlotte, that ingenious spider, did next. During the story hour, I could have a joyful childhood. I was not an outsider, or a child worried about her mother who didn't speak English.

The school year ended a few weeks ago for my book club members. They are no longer required to attend online class. We took a vote to see what to do next. It was unanimous. The Coronavirus Book Club lives on!

While listening to ''Charlotte's Web'' as a second grader, I was devastated when Charlotte died. The lessons I learned from her, however - make a difference, be kind, take care of one another - stayed with me.

I LIKE TO THINK that Mrs. Sandberg, who is no longer with us, would be proud to know that her legacy lives on in so many ways. I can't pick up the phone and tell her about the book club or properly apologize for her having to carry me off the monkey bars, which in no way was part of her job description.

But I can thank every educator like Linda who is trying to find creative ways to carry their students to safety during these difficult times. What you are doing now was never a part of your job description, and we know that.

You will always be remembered, and that is a legacy reserved for heroes.

The World Students Society in all admiration, thanks author Firoozeh Dumas, who is also the author of three books and is writing a screenplay.


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