Wednesday, August 26, 2015

We Know Them By Name

Every time my students come in for Library, they know I will do at least four things consistently.

1. Introduce them to new books.
2. Introduce them to authors and illustrators, including photographs.
3. Read to them.
4. Teach them something.

I adore my entire time in the library with the students in our school. Connecting kids with books is one of my favorite things to do.

One thing I do differently now than I did 15 years ago, though, is I insist that kids use the names of the writers we are studying. I show students pictures of the writers and say their names as often as I can when discussing a text.

For example, today I showed my students the book trailer for Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett. I projected a picture of Mac Barnett when talking about his new book. I told students about him, how he lives in California and how I was lucky enough to meet him last year. I also showed the students a few other books by Mr. Barnett.
Geeking out with Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett
I do this for every author I highlight: show books, show pictures of the author, tell a short biography of the author.


Because I want students to know these talented people by name. I want kids to realize that there are faces that go with the books on these shelves in our library. That these books were made by people who are just as human and fallible as we are. These stories were written by people from California and Ohio and Canada, and they live in houses and feel happy and sad and scared just like we do. 

Writers usually don't ride these.
No matter what the writers may try to tell you, they are not Magical Beings Sitting on Clouds, Raining Down Gumdrops from their Rainbow Unicorns. But kids (and sometimes I) think of writers like that. Kids have no faces to go with the names of the thousands of books on our shelves.

It's about establishing reading and writing identities. The more I teach, the more I realize how important it is that students see themselves as readers and writers. Students need to understand that THEY TOO can make books and write stories, just like the authors we study. Peter Brown wrote a story about a teacher being a monster. We can also write stories from things in our lives, just like Peter Brown!

Geeking out with Peter Brown.

So, let's encourage kids to call writers by their names, not just by their books.

Instead of "Pigeon" books, let's call them "Mo Willems' Pigeon Books."
Instead of "Percy Jackson" books, let's call them "Rick Riordan's series."

We must learn about the writers' lives. This requires some work on the teacher's part, but we are living in an age of social media that makes it easy to find information. Tweet authors questions about their books. If we have a chance to meet them at a book signing, go! Take pictures with the writers. Share these with students. 

Geeking out with Debbi Ridpath Ohi and Lauren Castillo. 

It's such a small addition to literacy instruction, but one that reaps so many wonderful rewards.