I spent an absolutely fabulous day at a conference featuring Jack Gantos, Lester Laminack, and Katie Wood Ray. Jack Gantos is just a hoot; he had me belly laughing. When I met him to have my book signed, he was very funny and gracious. During his presentation he spoke about writing and journaling in the classroom, and he shared very personal (and some very comical) tales of his youth. One ah-ha moment of his presentation was that as readers and teachers we need to look for and share the physical story and the emotional story. I had never really thought of that point. I believe I share the feelings in books that I choose to read, but I never discuss that as being important to our audience connecting with our writing. If you are not familiar with Jack Gantos (and I was not), check out his website. http://www.jackgantos.com/
Lester Laminack brought me to tears with his discussion of "the attitude and intention behind the words that create bullying". He shared personal experiences that were truly touching. He also shared points from his book Bullying Hurts and some of the books referenced in that piece of work. His primary point is summed up in his comment, "Kindness thrives on recognizing our sameness." When I had a chance to meet him, we actually shared a warm, comfortable conversation. What a gift to be able to just stand and chat. And he signed my favorite Lester Laminack book, Saturdays and Teacakes. You can find his website at http://www.lesterlaminack.com/index.htm
Katie Wood Ray closed the day. Being a kindergarten teacher, I have followed Katie Wood Ray and used Already Ready and About the Authors in my teaching. She is a guru in my eyes. She spoke about using reading aloud to children to build their sense of the sound of writing. She said that as a teacher you "want to become a voice in their head" so that when they're reading they hear your voice and phrasing. She also said that children don't just need to hear a piece of writing, they need to see it, see how it looks when it's written to learn to cue how to read it, and they need to see the author, the person who wrote the piece being used, in order to share that this person was the one who made the writing decisions that crafted the book. Katie Wood Ray, not surprisingly, is very warm and friendly. Her presentation was very much like a conversation. I was happy to have her sign my brand new copy of In Pictures and In Words. To read a bit about this book, take a look at an interview with the author at http://readingyear.blogspot.com/2010/07/in-pictures-and-in-words-interview-with.html .
Just have to add my photos from the day; unfortunately my picture with Jack Gantos didn't come out well. Thanks to these three wonderful authors for sharing a day with a room full of Maine educators.