There are a lot of things I love about visiting schools: meeting the kids, hearing what they think about my books, answering their really smart questions and hearing their ideas.
In some of my classroom visits, we dig right in and explore how an idea becomes a book. We look at one of my books – from manuscript to finished book. The kids see my very clean text and then…the many questions and corrections on the pages from fact checkers and the copy editor, the design and production department ideas. And, my editor’s notes on the pages and in the margins – in RED ink. Next, we look at the galley which has more notes. Finally, the finished book!
When kids see all of these marks and changes, they have what I call a ‘Click,” Aha or Oy moment! They realize how many steps and people it takes to create a book. Suddenly, they look at books and their own writing differently. They realize that writers have a team helping them create a book. And in school, their teacher is their “team.”
For me, the best part is what happens next. The kids create a project – from art to poetry to videos – based on the book we’ve studied together.
Three of my favorite projects are featured in KIDS CONNECT.
At the Powell GT Magnet School in Raleigh, North Carolina, the school chose Eleanor, Quiet No More: The Life of Eleanor Roosevelt as their one Book/One school project. Everyone got a copy of the book. Each grade did a project based on the book.
One grade took off on the idea of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party which celebrated women throughout history and made ceramic plates of women they admired. One girl did a plate about for me – it is of the airplane bringing me from New York to North Carolina. What a surprise and what an honor!
Students at the Walworth Barbour American International School in Even Yehuda, Israel created movie trailers about my books. Two of their movie trailers – videos – are based on Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor, Quiet No More: The Life of Eleanor Roosevelt. Using illustrations from the book, they highlighted the essence of each story and added dramatic music.
Writing & Art
I met with fourth graders at C.S. 21 in Bedford, Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York. They created poem-biographies based on my anthologies No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance , Escape from Slavery and picture book biographies, Martin’s Big Words, Eleanor, Quiet No More! and Abe’s Honest Words.
The students were given the task of writing a biographical poem about a slave, just as I had done in my books. Their teacher and I critiqued their work-in-progress. A professional artist worked with them on the portraits. We all worked together and the students’ work became a book. The results are amazing.
My two visits were sponsored in collaboration with Behind The Book (BtB), an innovative literacy program bringing authors and illustrators into classrooms in underserved public schools in New York.
Visit KIDS CONNECT to see the Behind the Book project and links to the movie trailers.