It all started last year when Amellia was reading Kelly Yang’s “Front Desk” just as March Reading Month challenges started. Amellia’s fourth-grade teacher, Emily Potter, wanted to create excitement about reading.
“To encourage reading, we (Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Meredith), had students re-design the book cover of a book they were reading. Students could paint, chalk, draw, sketch, and use any materials they wanted to. We hung them in the hallway to help encourage reading and promote other books for students,” said Potter.
Before Amellia could finish her book cover recreation of Yang’s book, COVID-19 shut down school, but it didn’t stop her from finishing the project at home.
After sending her teacher a picture of the finished drawing of the book cover “Front Desk,” Amellia took it upon herself to write a letter to the author expressing how much she enjoyed the book and shared her drawing of the cover.
“My favorite part in your book was when Mia got everyone to invest money to the Calivista Motel. It showed how people could come together even if they were poor and build a better life for themselves,” Amellia wrote in her letter to Yang. “They all struggled in many ways and were on their own “Rollercoasters” and went through different things in their lives, but in the end they all came together to make the motel theirs. It makes me feel that anyone can do anything if they come together, and that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”
She went on to tell the author how the book filled her with strength and determination. “I also love how Mia was kind to everyone, no matter their skin color, age, gender, or even if they were mean to her (mostly Jason).”
Mrs. Potter was impressed not only by the artistic recreation of the book covering, but also by Amellia’s initiative to send the author the drawing and a letter. Potter shared the drawing and letter on Twitter, tagging Yang and it wasn’t long before a response came back. Not only did Yang respond to the letter, she also extended to share an exclusive video with Amellia’s classroom.
“I’m so excited to “visit” your classroom! I hope my video is helpful to your students and inspires them to dream big and go for their dreams! I hope it helps them fall in love with writing, the way I did when I was a kid. Most of all, I hope it brings them comfort and hope during these challenging times,” wrote Yang.
Amellia shared the video this week with her new fifth-grade class and teacher Mandy Kahafer. Beaming with pride, Amellia introduced the video to her classmates by sharing her story of the fourth-grade assignment and the letter to the author.
Yang said “Front Desk” is based on her own life when she worked the front desk of a hotel with her immigrant parents. She didn’t speak English and found it difficult to communicate at times. “I had to find my own voice,” she said.
Yang came from China to the United States when she was 6 years old. She said she never saw anyone like herself represented in books or television when she was growing up and she wanted to write a book to inspire others. She said she always loved writing but doubted she could be a published author. It wasn’t until her son inspired her to share the story that she took action and eventually had the book published. It soon was on the New York Times Best Selling list.
“It shows you what can happen when you take a chance and dream big,” said Yang in the video to the students. “I dreamed it. I went for it and one day I looked and “Front Desk” was published.”
“This shows you what can happen when you dream big and take a chance,” Yang told the students.
Amellia, who enjoys art and writing, said it’s a lesson she’ll carry with her forever. “I can dream big and who knows what I can do,” she said.