Author Ridley Pearson
Lynee White is an enthusiastic middle-school librarian in Aurora, Illinois. She and I chatted in a Google document about Ridley Pearson's visit to her school library. I wrote the words in red, and Lynne wrote the words in black. Thank you, Lynee!
*My students prepared for Rildey Pearson’s visit by initially watching a video that I made with several students. We launched the video school-wide (grades 6-8) so that everyone heard the literacy announcement at the same time. The video began with music from the Electric Light Parade and a powerpoint announcing that there was an author visit. It went into me announcing the visit and booktalking the series, as well as student interviews of some avid Ridley Pearson readers. We used a green screen so it looked like we were standing in front of the Disney castle, and we spliced the video with all kinds of cool video footage from Ridley Pearson interviews and KK book trailers. After the video roll out, our school was pumped!!! We then prepared by doing read alouds in classrooms, painting a castle backdrop, making all kinds of posters to decorate the library and school, and creating a gift to present to Mr. Pearson. In addition, my student author ambassador team met with me to create the introduction and closing script for the author presentation, as well as work on strong speaking techniques for their delivery.
*Ridley Pearson told my students that writers tell great stories because they are readers first. He encouraged my students to carry a writer’s notebook to write down all of their creative ideas and “what if” questions. He likes to create stories by twisting reality, and he gets his ideas for many plot points by wondering, “What if???” For example, what if the dolls in Small World suddenly came alive and began attacking the boat? Mr. Pearson also gave the students permission to put down a personal reading book if they are not connecting to it and try another one. His advice, “Don’t stop reading if you don’t like a book. Just stop reading THAT book. Go find a different one, one that you love and can’t put down!”
*I am certain my students walked away from Ridley’s visit with a fire for reading and writing. During our nine-day roll out of the Ridley Pearson visit, we sold over 300 books. My students could not wait to get to the autograph station after the author presentation and get their hands on their very own book. And, for those students that didn’t purchase their own copy, they were lining up at the circulation desk to put a Kingdom Keepers book on hold.
*I connect my students with authors because I want them to feel inspired by the people behind the books. I want them to view authors as Literary Rock Stars, because they are. I want them to hear about the reading, writing, and editing process from people who have “made it big”. The personal connections that students make with authors during a visit, either in person or via skype, are simply magic. Reading and writing come alive for students, and they are forever changed.
*The Kingdom Keepers is an exciting series that includes great stories on friendship, good vs. evil, fantastical adventure, and intriguing mysteries. It is a series that my third grader at home loves through a read aloud and my middle school readers can’t put down. Right away readers are drawn in because of their personal connection to Walt Disney World. As they read they can visualize the setting of Main Street, Animal Kingdom, and Splash Mountain. However, when everything they think they know about Disney is suddenly flipped, distorted, and threatened, the story becomes a fast-paced read full of creative twists and turns.
*Anderson’s Bookshop is an independent bookstore in Naperville, Illinois that has made my first year in library simply incredible. I taught middle school language arts in my building for 19 years before moving into the library this year. As a language arts teacher, I have always adored Anderson’s and worked with them. However, I wasn’t in a literacy leadership position to take advantage of everything they had to offer. One of the first moves I made when I transitioned into library was to communicate with Anderson’s that I wanted to partner with them. I met with the staff, the owner, and spent hours in their store. I booked all of my book fairs with them, placed my book orders through them, and even got my commercial bus driver’s license so that I could take students to their in-store author visits on the “Book Bus”. When I look back on the the programming activities that I am most proud of during my first year in library, Anderson’s is attached to every single one of them. Their support for reading, the community, literacy, and students is AMAZING.
*Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about the conclusion of our author presentation where staff members entered the room dressed up as Disney characters who had “crossed over” into the human world, just like in the KK books where the hologram characters are able to “cross over” into the character world. The students AND Ridley Pearson were going crazy upon the arrival of our surprise guests! Another very cool feature of our author visit was the “Author Unplugged” pizza lunch that we hosted for avid KK readers Thirty KK series readers sat around Mr. Pearson and had a Q and A with him about his life, Disney secrets behind the scenes, his upcoming projects, and anything else...nothing was off limits! The students loved their up-close-and-personal-time with our literacy rock star.