Tag Archives: elementary school

Author/illustrator school visit tips from your old Uncle John

I got an e-mail from an author/illustrator colleague who is about to do her first school visit—she asked for some tips about how to make it a success. Here are a few ideas that came to mind.

First of all, don’t be nervous. The students are going to treat you like a rock star. You’ll be new and different and fun. They’ll love you.

Dress like you’re going on an interview.

Have you read the story aloud yet? Rehearse before you go in front of the students. Read it to a friend or two this weekend, just so you can get comfortable with doing that. BE AN ACTOR—be sure every character sounds different from the others. Don’t be afraid to go over the top with the voices. I’m a ham, and wear some kind of hat that fits with the story—a cowboy hat, or bunny ears—because the narrator is also a character. Relax, don’t rush through your reading, and enjoy the experience.

Ask for water. Ask for a microphone if you’re speaking to an assembly. If it’s just 25 or so kids, no mic.

Know how much time you’re allotted and keep an eye on the clock.

I have a few of my books in jpeg format. The school should have a computer and projector—ask for it ahead of time, along with a tech person. You bring your jpeg file on a flash drive. Bring at least one backup on a different flash drive. You can project your images while you read the story.

If you feel comfortable doing it, draw the kids a picture afterward. An easel with a big pad and a chisel-point marker is all you need. Keep it simple. Draw something you’re good at drawing—a cat or a dog. Describe what you’re drawing as you draw it as if you were doing a presentation on the radio.

If you do Q&A, keep the answers simple. Preface your answers with things like, “That’s a really good question.”

When the show’s over, thank everyone and turn the class back over to the teacher.

More grants for early reading programs

As I mentioned yesterday, Target offers grant money to schools and organizations who need help with an early reading program. An early reading program might entail hiring a children’s book author/illustrator to present to students (he said rather shamelessly).

Dollar General also has a grant program for early literacy/youth development—as does Barbara Bush, Verizon, Scripps-Howard, and Clorox.

Here is a round-up of foundations who offer grant money for summer reading programs. Here are awards & grants available from the International Reading Association.

If you would like a detailed description of my presentations to help you apply for these grants, be sure to give me a yell!

Make your reservations now!

I am booking school visits in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area for Read Across America Week, March 2 – 6, 2015. Friday the 6th just got reserved this morning. If I can book the whole week, everybody gets me for 25% off the regular rate.

Contact Lisa— bookings@johnmanders.com

Mid-century school kids

Here’s Ignatius Thistlewhite and his school chums from The Year Without a Santa ClausPhyllis McGinley wrote the story in the 1950s, so I liked the idea of keeping it set in that time.

Most people, when they think of that era associate it with early rock ‘n’ roll, greasers, big cars with fins, malt shops—the image cultivated by movies and tv like Grease, Happy Days, Hair Spray, American Graffiti & Back To The Future. I was born in the 1950s and started school in the early 60s, so I saw that time through a child’s eyes.  I wore the clothes I put on Ignatius: a red fur cap with ear flaps and red plaid woolen pants. I didn’t wear a necktie as Ignatius wears in the sketches; art director Anahid Hamparian showed good sense when she asked me to lose it.

The classroom is how I remember Allen Road Elementary School under the tutelage of Mrs Gurney, Miss Yaeger, Mrs. Bowen, Mrs. Haskins, Miss Nugent & Miss Corey (the art teacher)—I know I’ve left out some names.

The b&w photo of the school teacher with the bangs shows a costume and hairstyle that are probably closer to the 40s, but she just looks so much like the teachers I remember.  In the same shot is the back of a kid’s head that I found useful.

The perspective in my classroom illustration is clearly—what’s the word?—nuts.  The kids in the foreground would need to be standing in a hole.  But I wanted them down that low so that Ignatius could be that high.  I think the composition works, and that’s what’s important.  So there.

Chaos in Market Square

From Peter Spit A Seed At Sue, a painting in progress:

I’ve set the scene in Pittsburgh’s Market Square.  If you look closely you’ll see the location photos I shot.  I used them to help me design a setting that would be recognizable from a variety of different vantage points.  The pie-wielding mayor is a caricature of Mrs Dittman, the principal of Allen Road Elementary School while I attended.