Recently I visited several fourth grade classes in Iron Mountain, MI, discussed my life as a writer and read stories from my anthology for children, Tales of Adventure & Discovery. For me, sharing with youngsters and stimulating their creativity is the "icing on the cake."
To hear them giggle over a story when I read a humorous part or "ooh" and "ah" about an illustration lets me know I've reached them with my writing and drawing. When they begin to write stories inspired by my teaching, I realize my writing has become something more than an activity that brings only me enjoyment.
Tying Visits With School Curriculum
Sometimes I simply read stories to school children during my visits, while other times I use my stories as a springboard to conduct writing activities with the youngsters. In one school I worked for two days with fourth and fifth graders, tying my stories and their writing activities into what they were studying in social studies.
The fourth graders were learning about their state's history. The fifth graders were involved with the history of the American West. My story, Sarah Jane's Daring Deed, is set in pioneer days. Then I encouraged the fourth graders to develop a historical story about something that could have happened in their state.
A story-in-progress, Uncle Buffalo Bill, Santa Fe Trail Trader, helped them learn more about the early days of the Santa Fe Trail. This story is based on the experiences of William Mathewson, my great, great uncle. From it, the young writers realized they could write about a historical figure in western history or the adventures of an imaginary character.
Reading & Teaching Poetry
Since I also write poetry, I enjoy encouraging children in this area. My poem, "The Cookie Lady," and accompanying illustration in Tales of Adventure & Discovery seems to entertain youngsters.
I've developed a series of lessons to use with the young poets, either following the example of "The Cookie Lady," or other poetry ideas. It's fun to see youngsters get excited about creating poems.