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Letters About Literature National Winners 2008

National Winner, Level 2: Anna Rodis

Dear Mr. Paul Showers,

When my father was a young boy, he went on mile-long walks with his father every night after dinner. My dad said that on those walks, he and his dad--my grandfather--talked about world geography. My dad learned the names of all the countries of the world, their capitals, what their land was like, and what type of government they had. He learned a lot on these walks and was able to spend some real quality time with his father. So it was only natural that when he had kids, he wanted to do the same with them. And so he did.

When it came to my turn to go on the walks after dinner with my dad, I was really excited. But I had recently read your book, The Listening Walk. My dad started the walks the way he had with my older sisters--the way his father had with him--and he started teaching me about the countries of the world. One warm and slightly breezy spring day, I asked my dad if he wanted to go on a "listening walk" instead. He had never heard of a listening walk, so I explained the idea to him. I was not sure how he was going to take my suggestion, and I was a little afraid that I would hurt his feelings. After a moment's thought he said, "Sure. Why not?"

We walked quietly together for quite some time. I heard the patter of our footsteps, the rustle of our jackets, the singing of the birds, the sounds of distant dogs barking and the sound of the leaves blowing in the breeze. After a while, I stopped and asked my dad what he had heard; we kind of compared notes. He heard a lot of the same things I had heard but also heard a window open in someone's home, a car door closing, and he could identify three different types of birds singing and calling to each other. It turned out that he was a really good listener. He really liked the idea of a listening walk and we went on many of them together for quite some time. I loved going on these walks as much as the main character in your book.

I heard many sounds during these walks. But the walks were more than just listening walks. They were times when my dad and I could really relax. We could be quiet and let the sounds of our surroundings fill our ears and our minds. Sometimes the only sounds we heard were the sounds of our own breathing. I can't go on listening walks as much as I would like to any more. The world had also gotten a lot crazier and much more stressful than when I was younger. But like the girl in your book said, "You do not even have to take a walk to hear sounds." So now, whenever I get the chance, or whenever I am feeling a little anxious about something, I sit quietly in my room or go into my backyard where there is a pond with a waterfall, and I just listen. Doing this always has a way of calming me, leaving me feeling happy and refreshed. Even though my life and the world around me have gotten much more hectic, there is always time to squeeze in a little "listening walk." I can't wait to take them with my children.


Anna Rodis