April showers may bring May flowers, but budding readers are blossoming thanks to the great teachers and librarians who sow the seeds of literacy. With National Teacher Appreciation Week and Get Caught Reading Month, May is a time to celebrate books, readers, and educators.
With that in mind, we asked our authors to share memories of their favorite teachers and librarians:
My second-grade teacher wore a necklace that spelled PERFECT—but the “T” was crooked.
Still, she was perfect to me.
Every day she read aloud to the class. Her, in a big chair and the class gathered around her on the dusty classroom floor. I was mesmerized by what she was reading to us: big books with chapters and small print. I couldn’t read all those words yet. But I could listen. And listened to every syllable of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge, and James and the Giant Peach.
Those books made me fall in love with story and characters and the power of books. I couldn’t believe an author could make all that up in their head. I was amazed and overwhelmed, yet, I knew I wanted to do that. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to make other people feel what I did. So, I practiced and practiced. I showed my teacher my stories. She was the first one to tell me I could be a writer. I remember that second grade day so clearly––even though it was over thirty years ago.
When my first book was published, I tried to find her. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t locate her. If I do ever find her, I know exactly what I will say: “You were right, I am a writer. Thank you for believing in me.”
––Lisa Rose, author of the new Star Powers series, available Fall 2018
Unlike most writers, I was not an avid reader as a child. For whatever reason, I preferred being outside, making up stories I could act out. I also loved to draw and paint, but reading? Not so much. So I didn’t pay much attention to children’s books. But, as an adult struggling to find a career in art, I thought it might be fun to illustrate them! And that’s when a librarian became my hero. Her name is Barbara Snow, and at the time she was the children’s book librarian at the public library. Barbara steered me to the books she knew that kids loved, like Maurice Sendak, Arnold Lobel, Jan Brett, Uri Shulevitz, and James Marshall. I soon worshipped Trina Hyman, especially her biography, where she talked about the reality of being a children’s book illustrator, including a hilarious painting of her trying to work while dealing with a screaming baby. If not for Barbara, I may have moved in another direction, so I cherish the attention and caring she gave to a naïve but enthusiastic young artist. 35 years later, we are still friends.
––Robin Koontz, author of dozens of books, including the new Nature-Inspired Innovations series, available Fall 2018
I met Deb Barnett in the fall of 1976. I was nine years old and entering the third grade. She noticed several things about me. Some she helped me appreciate and others she helped me fix. As an adult, I’m grateful on both counts. I noticed many things about her, as well. While other teachers might say, “Don’t be afraid to try,” Deb would tell us, “Don’t be afraid to fail.” No wonder she stood out from the crowd! One axiom I learned from her that I still use all the time and have taught to my own children is “if it doesn’t work in forward, try it in reverse.” Anytime something doesn’t function or happen the way I want it to, “trying it in reverse” is the first thing I do and it works more often than not! She gave us permission to try, fail, work “out of order,” collaborate, build on each other’s ideas and find “creative” solutions to whatever might block our path. A great champion of “what if’s”, she taught us that sometimes questions lead to answers and sometimes answers lead to more questions, and that is good!
––Deb Nelson, elementary school librarian and author of World’s Coolest Snakes: Cottonmouth, available Fall 2018.