My neighbors, Tom and Carolyn, recently sent their youngest son, Patrick, off to college. I can still see Patrick as an eight-year-old playing in the backyard with the family dog and cat. In a mere four years, he will be graduating from college and looking for his first teaching job.
As we were talking about Patrick’s new life at college, Tom mentioned that each and every day, without fail, as Patrick was heading off to school, he would ask him, “What’s the magic word?” Patrick would reply, “Read.”
As teachers, we are privileged to share with our students the “magic” that comes through reading. Reading informs our students, takes them to places—real and imagined—both near and far, and introduces them to a host of unforgettable characters.
Each time I read a book to or with my third graders, I always try to give them some type of background information about the author. My students really seem to enjoy learning about the person “behind” the story. They are often delighted (and surprised) to find out the author is a “real” person, just like them!
I knew I had succeeded in developing “author awareness” in my students, when (at the time I was teaching kindergarten) one of the children walked in and said, “Do we get to read a Leo Lionni story today?”
Many of today’s popular authors have Web sites that are designed to be accessed by both students and teachers. These Web sites are great supplements to the reading curriculum. Newsletter space limits me from listing all the wonderful author Web sites in cyberspace, but here are a few worth noting:
A few years back, one of my third graders mistakenly began calling her “Beverly Cleverly,” and the nickname stuck with him (and his classmates) when we read her books. Of course, by now, you have figured out “she” is Beverly Cleary, and her Web site is full of color, excitement, and fun! Enter into the world of Ramona, Socks, Henry Huggins, Ralph Mouse, and more. Students can click on an interactive map of the Klickitat Street neighborhood and play trivia games. Teachers will also find a helpful resource link.
Jan Brett boasts that her Web site has 4,182 activities and I believe her! The Web site is bursting at its cyber-seams with activities, projects, and more for both students and teachers. Jan has a monthly audio “Hedge-A-Gram” in which she talks about her current projects. Children can enjoy reading a story on the computer along with Brett’s character, Hedgie. Brett has dozens of resources for teachers including a printable school year calendar, a Dolch word list, flashcards, art projects, and more.
Judy Moody (written by Megan McDonald) has a Web site promising “way-not-boring stuff” to do. Little brother Stink also has a link, where readers can create their own comics!
Another favorite author site is at Tomie. That is the place to go to find out more about beloved children’s author Tomie dePaola. Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, and the Mercy Watson series maintains a monthly on-line journal for her readers. And author Chris Van Allsburg’s opening Web page appears to have “jumped” from the pages of his book, Jumanji.