North Tama's students and staff have had the opportunity to meet and learn from several well-known authors that have visited the school in recent years. Perhaps you caught some of the media coverage this past September when we were visited by internationally-acclaimed author Peter Reynolds. If you happened to get a quick glimpse of the assembly during the coverage on KWWL news or when it was broadcast in its entirety on discoveryeducation.com, you surely saw our students' excitement and understood that September 13 was not a typical day of school at North Tama.
Maybe you saw Carol Detje's school bus, decorated with hundreds of multicolored dots, as Carol gave Peter Reynolds a tour of Traer before bringing him to the school, where he was greeted by hundreds of cheering students. While I hope everyone in the community had a chance to share in our excitement, it has occurred to me that some folks might not understand WHY we decided to take time from our school day for such excitement.
We all understand that teaching kids to read, write, compute, solve problems independently, and think critically is serious businessso why do we at North Tama take time from our regular learning experiences for the craziness of an author visit? Could our time and resources be used in a more productive way?
At North Tama Schools, we believe the time that we spend with authors such as Peter Reynolds, Kirby Larson, Drew Daywalt and others is an INVESTMENT in our students' futures for many reasons.
When the teachers and school community show their enthusiasm for an upcoming author visit, students of all ages take the cue that books are important. A buzz of excitement is created. Kids are motivated to read that author's books in preparation for the visit.
There is nothing like an author visit to get kids reading, writing, and understanding the creative process. While our visiting authors often read aloud from the books they have written, it's not the books that make these visits so successful. Meeting authors makes the reading, the writing process, the literature, and the authors themselves REAL and ACCESIBLE to the students.
When students understand the "inside story" of how and why a particular book was written, they learn to recognize the choices made by authors. This helps to improve their reading comprehension as they develop and practice the ability to make predictions, inferences, and associations.
When published writers share the real-life process of developing a book from the idea stage to the final product, kids are often inspired to do more of their own writing. Spending time with someone like Peter Reynolds gives students a chance to see that authors are a real person not just a name on a book cover. While they learn that authors are ordinary people just like you and me, they also discover that even the most successful authors have had to take risks, fail, persevere, and try again. Reynolds helped North Tama students to understand that when they combine creativity with perseverance, nearly anything is possible.
Six months have passed since our most recent author visit; but, you can still see, hear, and feel the effects throughout the school. That's why we have invested our time and resources in having authors come to North Tama, and that's why we will continue to provide opportunities like this for our students in the future. We may live in a small, rural communitybut we're committed to providing our students with WORLD CLASS experiences.
I encourage your feedback on this column, along with any questions you may have. You are welcome to visit my blog at redhawksupt.blogspot.com/ where you can read all of my Star Clipper columns and leave comments if you wish. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill.