The fifteen primary school children that came to the Liverpool John Moores University Library ranged from ages 8-12. These children were bright sparks, and as reading buddies, they assisted younger students with their reading skills. My initial thoughts were that My Bare Feet would be too young for these students, and I was apprehensive about “reading down to them”, so I framed the book as something they could read with their reading buddies.
Conversation flowed from the beginning, and on each page, the students and I enjoyed discussing how walking through different surfaces and settings makes us feel.
After the reading, we looked at the reflexology chart at the back of the book, and the students took off their shoes and gave each other or themselves a foot massage. They observed how pressing on different parts of their feet affected other parts of their body. Feedback from one girl was that it made her so relaxed she would use foot massage before her exams to calm her down. Another boy in the front row who was sceptical initially about the scientific backing of reflexology became the expert when he started telling me that footballers actually use a similar method to release tension in their bodies, which led to a great conversation around the power of grounding and connecting to our feet to release stress and anxiety that builds up in our mind and body.
Here is a video of the book reading that is now being used with the students of Liverpool John Moores University, School of Education, to examine interactions with children when reading a story to involve the children as active participants. Helping children relate what they are reading to their own lived experiences is a powerful tool of literature. One of the most profound comments we had during the discussion was from a girl that said the crunching sounds that walking through snow makes reminds her of home. She is from Pakistan and was referring to the sounds she remembers on the streets from people sieving beans, apparently.
After all these beautiful conversations, I realised that the more mature the students are, the deeper we can engage in discussions around grounding, self-awareness and stress relief techniques, and I fell in love a little more with my picture book, My Bare Feet.
It’s a wonderful thing to rediscover your work. The more you share and explore with your readers, the more you, as an author, begin to understand the story from the reflections of other readers, and this is a profound feeling because you step aside and watch your story build a life of its own, from the voices of children.