Meet Teacher-Turned-Author Alice Walters
Alice Walters has too many children to count.
A recently retired teacher who lives in Lee’s Summit, Walters spent just over 10 years in urban school districts. Her students were fluent in poverty and violence and Walters and her colleagues often bought shoes and coats for students who would otherwise go without.
They also attended funerals.
“One funeral is too many,” says Walters. “I’ve been to more than one. I hear what people say, that someone got what they deserved. But that was a person, and that person had a life. Those are our kids. They are my kids.”
Walters was awestruck by the tenacity of students who faced broken homes, poverty, hunger, homelessness and violence but still showed up every day and tried to learn.
“There are horrible things in some of their lives,” says Walters. “Sometimes we only see what’s on the surface, but there’s always a story beyond that. I saw a little boy with shoes that were obviously too big, and without laces. He was trying to keep up but he just couldn’t. Kids came to school black and blue from being beaten, some were kicked out of their homes by parents, one whose only belonging was an aerosol can of deodorant. Kids like this don’t know who to trust.”
Walters first wrote stories for her granddaughter Annalyn, and then realized that she could reach countless others through writing. Life with Bobby and Bonnie is a collection of short stories about two bunny siblings. Each story touches on an aspect of love, faith, and responsibility, and each chapter begins and ends with a quote from Scripture.
“My faith drives me,” says Walters, “but this isn’t about me. It’s about the kids, and how we can reach them and show them that we see them and care about them. It’s spiritual calcium to give them strength.”
“Come get me. Now.” The text read.
“Ruh-Roh,” Scooby Doo said in my head. Dive practice doesn’t end for another half hour. “Why is my son bailing early?” I wondered.
Ten minutes later he climbed into my car, squinting. “I smacked so hard my contact flew out,” he said quietly. The whole left side of his face was red, his eye swelling. “I smacked so hard I couldn’t breathe. I had to lay there for like 30 seconds, just to catch my breath. Coach said I could go home.”
Walters chose bunnies as main characters because they are non-threatening and easily embraced. The book’s settings are universal and there’s plenty of opportunity for growth; not only can Bobby and Bonnie grow, but their family can grow, which allows Walters to incorporate different storylines that help kids make sense of circumstances in their own families.
Walters has been invited into public and private schools in the Kansas City area and across the United States. She not only reads the book to students; she also gives every student a book to take home.
“I write their name in the book before handing it to them, and they’re almost always surprised,” she says. “They ask ‘I get to keep this?’ and sometimes request one for a sibling. I want to be able to give books to every student I meet.”
Walters and her husband, Tom, have invested their savings in self-publishing and giving books away. They pay their own travel expenses when they visit a classroom away from home.
“This is what I’m supposed to be doing,” says Walters, though the realities of financing her mission have taken a toll. She’s tried Kickstarter twice with disappointing results, and is always looking for ways to purchase more books so she can give them away.
“Anyone can purchase one of the books, and that’s wonderful,” says Walters. “Every cent we make goes into buying more books to give away to the kids. We need help buying them in quantity, so that we can keep giving them away. If I can purchase 100 books, that means I can visit four classrooms, and there are thousands of classrooms to visit.
“Asking for help is never easy,” says Walters, “But this isn’t about me. It’s about our kids, and they deserve it.”