Theresa Bills teaches the 9-12 age girl's group at Hillside Bible Church in Ortonville, Michigan. I asked her to write about her experience using my book in her class. Here is her response:
What young girl hasn't had secrets to share or secrets to keep? What does God say about secrets? The girls in the book, Webber House, provided a great platform in which to discuss ways that we should handle secrets in our own lives. With the enthusiasm of a bunch of girls and a great book to read, this combination had all the makings of great teaching!
This book was used as a "read-out-loud" with tween-aged girls ranging in age from 9-12. They met on Wednesday nights to learn about the Bible, giggle, memorize scripture, giggle, play games, socialize, giggle and learn life lessons all aimed at helping them glorify God with their lives. Fun, fun, fun, but without a relevant curriculum, the program wouldn't reach its potential for changing lives. When I discovered Webber House, I knew my girls would be hooked!
For about 6 weeks, one of the leaders would read aloud from Webber House as the girls listened and interacted with their journals and each other during discussion time. As the book's primary lesson revolved around whether or not it was appropriate for someone to keep a secret, it was very relevant to our girls and blended well with scripture study. Mary Ellen Shea Clifford's voice and writing style made the book a joy to read because the reader sounded exactly like a story-teller. Since the leader/reader had read the book ahead of time, she picked out various places to stop and ask the girls questions or elicit responses from the listeners.
The girls each kept a journal that she would write or draw in during the reading time. The girls were encouraged to write about various things. They might record predictions at the beginning of the sessions, things they wondered about or questions they might want to ask the author, experiences they had that were similar to any events in the book and feelings that they had while hearing Katy and Jen's story. At the end of each reading session, the girls would excitedly share pictures they drew and ask questions. Since our evening program had three half-hour sections, this sharing time would often encroach upon game time, but our girls were in no hurry to run off. They wanted to finish talking about the book.
When the book came to an end, the girls were told that they were going to meet the author. They wrote questions they wanted to ask and had plenty to say when Mary Ellen came to visit. Mary Ellen was a delight to have as a speaker for our girls. Her positive energy and enthusiasm for writing and for life in general was obvious. She encouraged all of us to pursue our inspirations. She looked at every journal that the girls wanted to share and smiled the entire time. She told the girls to add dates to their journal entries and to journal often. She also encouraged the girls to write about things that make them happy. That's why I'm writing this today. The book, Webber House, made me happy. It took me to a simpler time and although I didn't live in it, I could relate to it and the characters I met while reading.
Knowing a bit about the author myself, I could completely imagine how she must have remembered things. I also previewed the other books in Mary Ellen's series and I can't wait till next book. You can believe that it will be read to the next group of girls in my program.