For the past five years, I have offered a challenge to my fifth grade students:
Write something that makes me cry.
The contest was born from Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog, a book I once read to my students but no longer do because I always get weepy at the end.
There is nothing wrong with crying. There’s nothing wrong with crying in response to something you read. There’s nothing wrong with crying in response to something you have read many times before.
But crying in front of two dozen merciless fifth graders?
Rather than reading Love That Dog, I’ve challenged students to write something that will make me cry in the same way Sharon Creech’s story makes me cry.
Here is how the contest works:
If you write a piece for the contest, I will read it aloud to the class while the writer records my reading on video. If I cry or get weepy in any way during the reading, I agree to post the recording of the reading to YouTube with a caption of the student’s choice.
For five years, dozens of students have tried. All have failed.
Here is a recording of me, reading Julia’s piece aloud. Unlike previous contestants, Julia decided to write memoir rather than fiction. Clever girl. And in my defense, Julia begins weeping in the middle of my reading, which may or may not have contributed to my tears as well.
Regardless, I got weepy, so Julia wins. It’s a brilliant piece of writing, so she deserves the glory that comes with her victory. Enjoy.