John Hay students learn from story of Rwandan girl

You never can predict the impact of a book on a child. Or its impact on a class. Or on a teacher.

And, you never know what impact those students and teachers have on the books’ author or a little girl about which the book was written.

John Hay students, through Scholastic Books, were lucky to obtain copies of “Her Own Two Feet” by Meredith Davis. They got their inquisitive fifth grade hands on the book, and their hungry minds were able to enjoy it even before the book hit the retail market.

They are the first school group to read the true story of Rebeka Uwitonze, a girl from Rwanda born with arthrogryposis, a disease that caused her joints to contract, resulting in stiffness, clubfeet and muscle atrophy in her arms.

The book, which the class bought through Scholastic, just went on sale to the general public Tuesday, Oct. 1.

Rebeka, who left her family and came to America for surgery on her club feet at age nine, had 31 casts and 58 hospital visits. She returned to her family in Rwanda walking on her own two feet, a different girl inside and out.

Meredith Davis coauthors this story with Rebeka to describe her journey through healing with the love of the Davis family.

On Twitter, author Davis shouted to the class: “A teacher in Tennessee is reading Her Own Two Feet at Scholastic Book Club with her students. She has sent pictures of their art. So honored. Can’t wait to show Rebekah.”

“I wanted this book to make an impact on my students,” teacher Candance Proffitt said. “The ability to help and see others for who they really are, regardless of a physical ability or a language barrier, is the goal I have for my students in completing this novel study.”

Rebeka has to overcome many things when she comes to America. “Her example speaks to my students in many ways,” Proffitt explained.

“Chance Comes Once” is the theme of this novel.

“This theme connects to our students in that they have a choice daily in which path that they choose,” she said. “The goal is that they remember to be brave, to show empathy, and to make the right choices in every situation.”

This novel reminds the students that life can be hard and circumstances can be tough, but in the end “Chance Comes Once.”

“It is up to them to make the right decisions and take their chance at a better life,” Proffitt said.

The fifth graders were immensely affected with this particular novel.

Isabella Templin shared, “I had tears and felt joy at the same time while reading the book. It has sad parts, but then the good automatically comes next.”

“I think it was one of the best books that I have ever read,” Reeve Elliott added. “I cannot believe that it actually happened. The emotions that I felt were never ending!”

Grant Johnson said, “After reading this book, it made me think: follow your dreams even it is something crazy and you think that it can never happen.”

“You may cry your eyes out so hard like an ocean slamming against the sand,” Anderson Noe described.

Luis Figueroa said, “Don’t be silly, don’t miss the chances that you have ... when I read this book, I knew that chance comes once.”

“It is so inspiring being able to read Her Own Two Feet. It may be emotional, but it is definitely worth it,” Adisson Watkins said.

The author sent the class a surprise package with bracelets with the book’s theme and bookmarks – enough for everyone. They also received a thank-you note for choosing her book and reaching out to her.

The students are planning to Skype with Davis in the near future.