It has been exactly three weeks since World Read Aloud Day 2014. It's time to recap the wonderful visits that took place on the first Wednesday in March of this year.
At 8:30 in the morning, the sixth graders had the opportunity to Skype with Nan Marino, author of Neil Armstrong is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me and Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace. Nan talked about one of her earliest memories of being read aloud to. She gushed with fond thoughts of her fourth grade teacher reading Charlotte's Web. This book holds many memories in its pages for Nan.
Nan told the sixth graders that reading (and writing) is like a muscle; we get rusty if we don't read and write. Nan also described the work that goes into writing a book. She is always revising her stories. She said that writers take chances, and writers always make mistakes. In addition, she told the students about the hours of research she completed to define what sound a Slinky makes when writing her first book. In the end, she decided the sound was, "Shink. Shink. Shink."
Nan reminded the students that, "Stories are amazingly powerful." Before the Skype was over, Nan recommended A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd and Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell to the sixth graders as fantastic stories that were put on their TBR lists.
**We thank NAN MARINO so much for the time she took out of her busy day as a librarian and writer to meet with us and share her stories.
At 9:15 in the morning, we were very fortunate to Skype with Sarah Albee. Sarah had a previous Skype visit scheduled that had to be postponed. We snatched up the extra time, and the sixth graders were so glad we did! Sixth graders think poop and bugs are two of the coolest and acceptably nastiest topics about which to read.
Sarah kept the students entertained by reading about Ancient Egyptian poop. The sixth graders had already studied the Ancient Egyptians and were pleased to add to their knowledge with facts from Poop Happened!: A History of the World From the Bottom Up.
Sarah shared her early reading memories and talked about her parents' love of reading. They were big storytellers. Sarah writes every day and often does so on her treadmill desk! The students decided they want one of these for the classroom!
Sarah loves research. She spoke to the students about calling up experts and going to the library. The students remained wide-eyed through the Skype and were amazed at the connections they had with her. When Sarah recommended Wonder by R.J. Palacio and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, they were thrilled to have read both of these books, too. Sarah also recommended How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous.
**We thank SARAH ALBEE for fitting us into her World Read Aloud Day schedule. We cannot wait to read about the history of crazy fashion and look at the pictures in her soon-to-be book.
The morning continued to fly by. At 10:20, Kimberley Griffiths Little joined us in the classroom via Skype. Kimberley is the author of several books. Since our Skype, the sixth graders have been devouring The Healing Spell, Circle of Secrets, and When the Butterflies Came. The Time of the Fireflies will be a popular one when it is released in July.
Kimberley proved that WRAD was turning out to be "a long glorious day" when she read the first chapter of her newest book, The Time of the Fireflies, to the sixth graders. She told them they were the first to ever hear the beginning chapter of the book read aloud!
She showed the students pictures of beautiful butterflies from her research of When the Butterflies Came. Students saw the red lacewing, small blue, and the piano key butterflies. Kimberley talked to the students about writing being a lot of thinking and a lot of questions. She uses a notebook for ideas and discussed her 3x5 card plotting.
**We thank KIMBERLEY GRIFFITHS LITTLE for Skyping with us on World Read Aloud Day. The sixth graders are voraciously reading her books and enjoying them. The students also thank her for sending gorgeous bookmarks and book club cards!
World Read Aloud Day would not be complete without a Skype visit from the ever-fantastic, super-hysterical, greatly-loved Donna Gephart. We Skyped at 11:00 in the morning which was apparently the perfect time for the Internet to go haywire! Alas!
Even though our connection was not perfect, the sixth graders clearly understood why Donna remains a favorite in our classroom. Through her witty and entertaining story of her sister and The Price is Right to the exclamation of "You will never ever be a writer!" she had the students laughing and learning the entire visit. Is it surprising that Donna is teaching a creative writing class this year?
Oh the fun we had! Donna had the perfect book recommendations of Holes by Louis Sachar and A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban. She also mentioned a *personal* favorite (of this teacher) when she named Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick.
**We thank DONNA GEPHART for taking time to Skype with us. The sixth graders absolutely, hands-down, 100% definitely, positively, no-bones-about-it, CANNOT WAIT for Death by Toilet Paper to get delivered to our bookstores this summer. You rock, Donna! You rock!
Greg van Eekhout
World Read Aloud Day continued into the afternoon. At 12:30 we were joined by Greg van Eekhout, author of Kid vs. Squid and The Boy at the End of the World. Greg graciously read aloud to us from The Boy at the End of the World. Many readers were hooked on Fisher's story that day and multiple copies of the book had to be requested from the local library.
Greg had very wise words for the sixth graders. He told us that writers have to write "a million words of junk before you do good writing." He said that "not writing" is "a big failure for writers" and that one has to "write a bad book before a good book."
The most poignant of all advice from Greg was the quote "Fill your life with words."
Before we said good-bye, Greg recommended The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate to us. The students loved hearing that this author had a special place in his heart for a book they loved as well. Greg told the students that Ivan was actually an inspiration for his work in progress, a "robot book."
**We thank GREG VAN EEKHOUT and DOZER for taking time to Skype with us. The sixth graders appreciate the fact that he was willing to read aloud to us. The students thought Greg was quite funny and sincere and hope that we get to read another book from him very soon!
World Read Aloud Day couldn't end any better than with our 1:00 Skype with Chris Grabenstein. Even though this visit (at first) had no audio, Chris was the ultimate puzzle solver. Hmmm....a little bit like Kyle in Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library?! We made a phone call, and by holding a microphone next to a cell phone, we were able to hear Chris perfectly and talk books and writing!
Chris shared the question spotlight with his famous dog Fred for a minute during the Skype visit. However, the students were eager to hear from Chris and learn more about his writing life. He talked about collaborating with James Patterson on I Funny and Treasure Hunters. He talked about his newest book, Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library.
All of Chris's books have been checked out since our visit, and some students are on the third and fourth book in The Crossroads series. Students are also enjoying solving puzzles along with Kyle in Luigi's library.
**We thank CHRIS GRABENSTEIN and FRED and PHOEBE SQUEAK and TIGER LILLY and PARKER for taking time to Skype with us and sending pictures to us after our visit. We know how busy he must be and very much appreciate the extra effort he went to in order to make our visit happen on WRAD.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to all the authors! You are our ROCK STARS!
P.S. Reading is like breathing chocolate air!