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Cox Teacher’s Letter to Author Results in Surprise Gift

3/27/2024

Students pose with Ferris books.

Because of Winn Dixie and because of a special dog named Grizzly Bear, Cox Elementary teacher Alison Rogers had an unforgettable moment or two, or three with her fourth-grade class.

At the beginning of every school year, she reads the book Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo to her class. This author’s works have created many memorable moments in her classroom over the years.

However, this year was a bit different.

Unforgettable Moment #1

While reading the book to her class in August, Rogers faced the loss of her beloved 13-year-old family pet, Grizzly Bear, a Bouvier des Flandres, a large herding dog.

“He was the love of our lives,” Rogers said. “Grizzly was the absolute best dog.”

Grizzly poses for a photo.

When he was younger, Rogers’ husband would bring him to school to visit the students when they read Because of Winn Dixie

“The kids all said, ‘Look, it's Winn Dixie!’” Rogers said. 

They had four chapters left to read when Grizzly passed away.

“The reality of what was to come came crashing down,” Rogers said. “I quickly put the book down and told my class that I was going to share something very personal with them.”

She opened her heart and told them about her beloved Grizzly and that despite her sadness, she was determined to finish the book. 

“I then proceeded to sob through the last four chapters, but the most beautiful thing happened,” Rogers said. “As I sobbed -- so did my students. There didn’t seem to be a dry eye in the room. We grieved together the precious love of a good dog and relished the love of a good book.”

Unforgettable Moment #2

Rogers was presented with the most thoughtful gift from her students, thanks to fourth-grader Riley Michael.

“After the loss of her dog, Mrs. Rogers was sad and upset,” Riley said. “An idea popped into my head.”

Riley purchased a copy of Because of Winn Dixie with his own money.

Riley Michael reads the book description.

“When she was out, I got everyone to sign it at recess as a gift for Mrs. Rogers,” Riley said. “When I gave it to her, I said, ‘I'm sorry for your loss, maybe this will help,’ and she covered her mouth and smiled.”

Her students signed the inside of the book, “In honor of Grizzly Bear.” 

“It was a sweet way to honor Grizz," Rogers said. “To say that I was touched was an understatement."

The page the students all signed.

Riley’s mom is the librarian at Cox. Thinking she put Riley up to it, Rogers wanted to thank her for the special gesture. 

“She quickly let me know that she had nothing to do with it, that she tried to talk Riley out of it, thinking that I wouldn’t appreciate walking back into those feelings,” Rogers said. “Riley told his mom, ‘You just don’t get it. You weren’t there. We had a moment, Mom. You had to be there to understand the moment. And Mrs. Rogers will be happy with this, not sad.’ And we did have a moment. A moment that only the love of a great book, a great read-aloud, sweet classmates, and the love that a once-in-a-lifetime dog can bring.

Unforgettable Moment #3

Rogers felt that the author of Winn Dixie, Kate DiCamillo, would love to hear about the memories that her book created. She wrote to DiCamillo about the loss of Grizzly and what Riley and his classmates had done for her. 

Earlier this month, she received a response from the author -- 36 copies of her new book, Ferris.

Mrs. Rogers reads to the class.

Rogers can’t wait to discover new adventures from one of her favorite authors as they read Ferris for the first time. 

“Our plan as a grade level is that I’m going to read the whole book to the whole fourth grade,”
Rogers said. “We may do a morning read-aloud with all of fourth grade together.”

DiCamillo’s books and stories continually create special moments in Rogers’ classroom. In her letter to the author, Rogers says it best:

We’ve had some other pretty great moments this year as well. The hoots and hollers of laughter and pure joy as we discovered the antics of Jay Berry Lee in “Summer of the Monkeys.” We went on an adventure in Emerald Atlas, and enjoyed a laugh out loud mystery with Origami Yoda. All wonderful, all memorable.

But this moment with Because of Winn Dixie was a gift that no one in my fourth grade class will ever forget. They will tell their children about the time every kid in their class cried when their teacher read aloud Because of Winn Dixie.

The power of words lives on. Thank you for the moment that will never be forgotten. 

Sincerely,

Alison Rogers - Cheri Cox Elementary, Wylie ISD