As part of my commitment to children, each year I travel to many schools to present a range of programs for students in grades K-12. Using history as my subject, focusing on non-fiction, I give the students a clear idea of how I decide to shape a story from concept through finished book–how I decide what life or event to write about, the kind of primary historical research that I do, choices that I make limiting the parameters of my story, and choice of literary styles that I use.
I focus on aspects of writing, showing them samples of my manuscripts with editors’ comments on them. I talk about point of view, the importance of verbs, and of course, stress revision as key. My goal is to have students engage with writing, research, thinking and revising, and see the stories and entire process as dynamic and exciting – to make history and non-fiction as compelling to them as fiction and other media.
I present the three different styles that I have developed in writing about history:
*Using my Big Words books and Lady Liberty, I talk about how I came to develop this style to “tell a life,” and shape a biography.
* Using my trilogy on Black History, I explain the variety of styles I use in the books to tell the story of the Black experience and why I chose them: primary sources, poems, songs, journals, and mini-vignettes that I re-created from the original sources without fictionalizing.
*Using my book on Jewish resistance, I explain the historical context and the writing of a book that covers an important period of history and Jewish experience that is reads like fiction, but has no fictionalizing.
The programs not only give kids an idea of how I write, but how they might think about research material and shape their own original way of storytelling, and how they can use my presentation as a guide to reading other historical writers. The material is adjusted for younger grades, but they too learn how an idea becomes a book!
“Doreen is a dynamic presenter. Her explanation of her historical research, writing process and her “writing problems” encourage the students to overcome their own fear of writing and not be satisfied with a first draft.” Jo Umans, Executive Director, Behind the Book, New York, NY
My programs are varied and can be tailored to the particular grade (s) and student body. I offer specialized programs, coinciding with celebrations and remembrances, a unit on Slave Resistance and Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust that allows students to see similarities/differences between these two groups at very different times in history.
“Doreen Rappaport’s ability to engage each audience from kindergarten through eighth grade was extraordinary.” Margi Johnstone, Librarian, St. Agnes School, Louisville, KY
Working with educators and students, the most popular programs that have evolved are:
Meet the Author – K-12 grades, in some schools I do an evening program with children and parents.
Black History and the Civil Rights Movement – Black History Month and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Women’s History – International Women’s day, Women’s History Month
Holocaust Studies and Jewish Resistance – History, Jewish Studies, Holocaust Remembrance Day
Writing workshops and week-long residencies are available. I am an approved BOCES writer in New York State. My fee varies depending on geographic location, number of sessions and number children per session. I am also available for “Meet the Author” visits via Skype.
“Our students are still talking about her. Being able to SKYPE with this awesome writer in New York was an incredible experience for our school.” Dealia Yancy, North Harlem Elementary School, Harlem, GA.
*See additional comments and ideas from teachers in Teachers Voices.
To prepare the children I ask educators to read or have students read parts of my books in advance of my visit.