Second graders at Cartoogechaye Elementary were treated to a visit from Macon County native and author Gail Diederich, Diederich is a retired educator/reading specialist of 32 years and a retired staff feature writer of 12 years for the Tampa Bay Times.
Second graders read Diedrich’s book, “Barley~A Possum’s Own Story,” as part of their unit learning about possums. Diedrich’s writing and photographs have claimed awards for the innovative way she uses factual presentations in her wildlife books to appeal to all ages.
“Barley~A Possum’s Own Story,” tells the real-life story of a tiny baby possum that could have ended up as a vulture’s meal after his mother was hit by a car on a busy highway, but in stepped a vet tech who rescued the little guy. Diederich, who was working as a newspaper journalist at the time time, heard of Barley’s rescue and wanted to write an article about the rescue. After meeting Barley, Diederich decided he deserved his own story and set out to write a children’s book using Barley as a tool to educate and inform children about possums.
“I walked into Cartoogechaye Elementary School in Macon County, N.C. this morning, looked around and felt a lump rise in my throat from the joy of what I saw,” Diedrich said of her visit to Cartoogechaye Elementary. “The walls pleasantly displayed abundant pictures and writings of small young children. On one wall was picture after picture of possums and I was thrilled! I was at the school as a visiting author, talking about the writing of Barley the possum’s book. It was beyond clear that the second-grade teachers had gone “above and beyond” to prepare these children for my visit. They had read the book to students, researched facts and had the children complete activities that helped them hold fast to facts.”
Diederich, who has written 6 books, credits her first-grade teacher, Mrs. Arnold, with encouraging her love of writing at a young age. Diederich said that when she was in elementary school in Macon County, Mrs. Arnold told her to keep writing stories… and that encouragement followed her throughout her life and is the reason she continues to write today.
“I was in my glory when I asked how many liked reading and hands flew into the air,” said Diederich. “They had wonderful questions, listened attentively, followed directions, were courteous and sat very still seemingly hanging on every fact I shared. When time was up, several slid close and, without prompting from anyone, quietly thanked me for coming to see them. Two little girls gave me drawings they had done.”
Diederich brought students their very own toy “Barley” to keep in the classroom as a special “thank you” for inviting her to visit their classroom.