As a former elementary school teacher and collector/writer/reader of children's books, I find time to bring stories to groups of children. I have given presentations to 3rd-5th graders in Keller ISD, Birdville ISD, and Arlington ISD.
My short self-published books are animal stories, about groups of animals who live in an fictional area called "Longfeather Ponds." To me, the area is similar to the real River Legacy Parks and the Trinity River area in north Arlington. The animals interact with each other, as they hunt for food and find shelter. Whenever I walk in the park or along the river, I can imagine that the animals who live there have their own communities and rules to live by, so those are the themes of my stories. When I was a girl, those were my favorite kinds of stories.
I weave factual information about animals into my school visits, and I arrive as an amateur naturalist - with my binoculars and backpack loaded with magnifying glasses, feathers, nests, tracking guides for the kids to see.
My three short books are titled:
- Longfeather Ponds, The Chipmunk's Tale, available on Amazon; hardcover and paperback.
- Longfeather Ponds, The Bobcat's Tale, availabile on Amazon; paperback only.
- The Beagles' Tale, A Longfeather Ponds' Adventure, available on Amazon; hardcover and paperback.
Sometimes I share what I have seen: the coyotes and bobcats in River Legacy, or the mother raccoon who had her babies in our attic. Or about the orphaned elephants in Kenya. I find most children as fascinated with animals as I am.
I offer two kinds of school visits:
1. "Look Closely! Wild Animals Are Everywhere!"
(large group, 25-40 students, 3rd-6th graders)
This visit invovles discussion about how wild animals adapt to urban areas. Examples of skunks, bobcats, coyotes, red-tail hawks, who live among city and suburban shopping malls, houses and golf courses are presented. Spoor and scat are explained, as well as animal tracking and what animals need to survive.
Approximately 1 hour.
2. "So You Want to Write about Animals!"
(small group, 20-25 students, preferably all one grade level, 3rd-6th graders)
This vist is a teaching lesson on writing about animals. Explanations and connections to Longfeather Ponds books will be given. Writing exercises are the focus of the lesson, particularly how to describe an animal and capture its walk and natural habitat.
Approximately 45 mintues, or can be tailored for an all day workshop.
In my professional life, I sometimes teach education courses regarding appreciation of children's and adolescent literature. I am interested in how authors and illustrators work and share their stories, and what the concepts of authorship that children can develop.
Recently, I visited the Eric Carle Picture Book Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts. Displays of his artwork and stories fill the museum, and there is a large art space for children's art and writing classes each week.
The museum staff also plans a yearly trip to collaborate with and learn from the teachers in Reggio Emillia, Italy, which I have visited. The creative approach to teaching and sharing art can be seen in the staffs' endeavors and throughout the museum. Exactly my cup of tea!