Exuberance filled the air at the 10th Annual Family Literacy Fun Day held last Saturday, November 5th at the Windham Primary School. Free and open to the public to promote literacy in a fun and engaging way, children of all ages anxiously waited to hear their favorite author and illustrator discuss the various aspects of writing and illustrating children’s books.
“I want kids to realize that books are written by people and they have stories to share beyond what’s written in the book,” Laurel T. Parker, Windham Public Library children’s librarian, stated, explaining one of the missions of the literacy day event. “Also, it is import to note that reading 15 minutes a day can make a great impact on the future lives of children.” Parker continued. “Even if you can read to your children while they are eating breakfast, it will benefit their future educational success.” To meet the mission and goal of family literacy, six authors and illustrators were available for the three-hour event and provided 15 minute presentations giving children the opportunity to ask questions. The authors were also available to sign copies of their books.
Author and illustrator Scott Nash was the first to make his presentation. Reading from the book, “Over the Moon”, Nash had children and adults laughing while he read the comedic rendition of the nursery rhyme. Nash also discussed his new non-profit art organization, Illustration Institute (II). The mission of II is to promote the work of illustrators as well as inspire the hidden artist in everyone. Workshops and lectures will be held at the Portland Public Library throughout the year, beginning with famed illustrator Ashley Bryan from Islesford on Little Cranberry Island. That program was also held on Saturday afternoon at the Portland Public Library and many families in the lakes region were excited to join that event as well. The next II event will be the Portland premiere of Floyd Norman, An Animated Life, a new film about the first African American animator to work at Disney and PIXAR will premier December 9th at 6:30 p.m. at the Portland Public Library.
The other author/illustrators read from their books as well, sharing the thoughts behind their writing. “I talk to students as writer to writer. I want them to know I am a colleague,” Jennifer Jacobson explained when she began her presentation. It is her goal to let students know that she has to make difficult revisions as she writes her books, much like a student does when they write for an assignment.
Chris Van Dusen spoke to a crowded room overflowing with fans as he read from a book he wrote and illustrated, The Circus Ship. It was an article about an old ship wreck off the coast of Vinalhaven that was published in Downeast Magazine that inspired Dusen to write and illustrate the story about a ship filled with circus animals that beached off the coast of Maine.
Kevin Hawkes shared the personal story about growing up in a military family, always finding himself in a new neighborhood, a new school with a new teacher. “What remained the same was the library. Libraries became a place of comfort to me,” Hawkes explained. As a result, he writes books to be comfort food for his readers, reminding them that everything is going to be okay. Lynn Plourde made her fans very happy when she announced she had four books published this year including “Maxi’s Secret”. “Maxi’s Secret” is a funny and yet bittersweet story about a deaf dog who meets a blind neighbor, providing important lessons along the way.
Matt Tavares made the last presentation of the day by speaking briefly about his book, “Growing Up Pedro”. “When illustrating a book, I try to write the story with pictures,” Tavares said, explaining that through his images, the reader can comprehend most of the tale. “Having a real person pose in front of me makes my pictures look real” he stated before having one of his fans, Lucas, pose while he drew a picture of him in front of the audience.
The successful morning included not only children, but parents and grandparents as well. Many busy families such as Carrie Chojnowski and her two sons, Evan and Jack, who came to the event in between swim lessons and Saturday errands to see their favorite author, Chris Van Dusen, and to have their books signed by him.
Some families were able to stay for the whole event, participating in the day’s activities that included crafts, door prizes, book swaps, games and resources for families. Adam Miele and his two daughters were there to hear all the authors speak but came specifically to see Kevin Hawkes, who is not only their favorite author but a friend of the family. Young Evelyn Demar was there for all three hours, attending every presentation. “I have read a book by every author who is here today, with the exception of one,” she said. “And, ‘If I Built a House’ by Chris Van Dusen is my favorite book.”
Also present for every authors’ appearance was the young and budding author/illustrator, 3-year-old Anya Andre. When Tavares ended his presentation, giving his quickly and impressively drawn illustration to Lucas, the future author/illustrator made an offer Tavares couldn’t refuse, “How about you draw a picture for me and then I will draw one to give to you.”
The Family Literacy Fun Day, which obviously sparked imaginative learning and the love of reading, writing and illustrating among the young children present, was made possible by the collaborative efforts of The Friends of the Windham Public Library with the author visits courtesy of the Richard Clark Library Fund, Windham/Raymond Adult Education and some past and present teachers of the Windham Primary School. Special thanks to volunteers Pam Whynot and Joyce Greenacre, former kindergarten teachers and Dodie King, current kindergarten teacher at Windham Primary School. RSU14s Melissa Boire also lent a hand.