Godfrey-Lee — While sitting in Godfrey Elementary’s media center with five classes of fifth-graders, author Gitty Daneshvari asked the students if they knew what “scolionophobia” meant.
After reading three options of what fear this phobia was related to, she revealed the answer: the fear of going to school.
Daneshvari’s fascination with phobias stemmed from “being afraid of everything” as a child.
Her childhood fears of stuffed animals coming to life, getting abducted by aliens or swimming in the ocean inspired her book series “School of Fear.”
The “School of Fear” main characters and their individual fears captured the attention of fifth-grader Margaret Ramos-Ramirez, and her discovery of Daneshvari’s book resulted in a visit from its author.
Instagram Post Gets Author’s Attention
Margaret said she decided to read “School of Fear” based on the “details of the cover art,” in addition to wanting to earn one of the book badges her teacher, Scott Kelly, awards his students.
“I saw that it was over 300 pages long and I could earn the Crushed 300 page,” Margaret said. “I enjoy reading and earning book badges in Mr. Kelly’s class.”
When she finished the book, Kelly posted a photo of the book and badge on his Instagram, tagged the author and got an unexpected response from Daneshvari.
“This is wonderful!!! Send me a DM with the school’s address and I will send her a signed copy of book two in the series!!!” she wrote on Kelly’s Instagram post.
As luck would have it, the Madrid, Spain resident was visiting family in Kalamazoo. When she learned how close Godfrey Elementary was, she was all too happy to pay a visit.
Margaret was met with mixed emotions after seeing the author reply to Kelly’s post.
“I felt happy and excited, but I was sad because I wasn’t going to be here. I was going to be in Guatemala at that time,” she said via email from that country. “All of this happened all because of me reading her book. I was also very happy for my classmates to be encouraged to read her books and for her to tell why reading is so important.”
She added: “It is crazy and unbelievable that someone would travel this far just to see a kid that read her book.”
Facing Fears, Childhood and Adult
During her talk with Godfrey’s fifth-graders, Daneshvari said she wished she could meet Margaret in-person, but was still happy and excited to be speaking in front of students.
“I haven’t done school visits since before the pandemic, so I’m a bit rusty,” she said.
‘It is crazy and unbelievable that someone would travel this far just to see a kid that read her book.’— fifth-grader Margaret Ramos-Ramirez
Daneshvari discussed her childhood quirks and how she transformed her ability to “never stop talking” into storytelling.
“I’ve learned everybody is afraid of something,” she said about writing “School of Fears.” “Some of these fears went away as I got older but some really stayed with me. I had a choice to make to face my fears.”
The fifth-graders were dumbfounded when Daneshvari divulged the secret fear of one of the main characters.
“One character is afraid of water and even passes out watching SpongeBob Squarepants,” she said.
A mixture of gasps and a slow, roaring “Nooo!” filled the media center.
Later in her talk, the author also invited the students to raise their hands and volunteer their fears.
Several students said they were afraid of the dark and others shared the fear of snakes and spiders.
She also gave advice for students who want to be writers. “Your first draft is always word-vomit,” she said, adding that if you’re stuck for a new idea, read other books for inspiration.
“I read to find ideas for writing,” one student said. Replied Daneshvari: “If I get stuck while writing, I reread the first Harry Potter book” — “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
In addition to enjoying reading mystery books “with a great surprise at the end” and ones with Hispanic characters, Margaret is inspired by authors like Daneshvari to write.
“I feel like (writing) is a great exercise for my mind,” she said. “It is like a game to me. I can experience all of my thoughts and put them on paper. Maybe, I could be an author just like Gitty.”
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