Yesterday I got back from the Illinois Reading Council's annual conference in Springfield. This is the second time I've attended this conference, geared primarily toward teachers and librarians. Not my immediate audience, but the people who bring my books to my readers--the kids. So it was great to sit with a table of educators--with a centerpiece designed and created by school kids, no less!--to talk about the books they'd like to use in their classrooms. And you know what I heard?
We'd like to see more science integrated with literature.
Well, holy cow. Me too, because these are the kinds of books that I really dug as a kid: science as literature. Here are my two favorite books I read as a kid: My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George, and Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell. And what they had in common was this: a kid on his/her own, dealing with the natural world. And although I read everything placed in front of me as a kid, I can only imagine how much more inspired I would have been about science and literature if I had been given the opportunity to study them at the same time.
So it was so nice to hear teachers say, "Yeah, bring on the science!"
Here is a picture of me with a couple of the teachers at the table, along with the awesome poster designed by kids at the Mt. Olive School:
That was one highlight of my trip. The other highlight was hearing Christopher Paul Curtis give the closing talk at the Saturday luncheon. I was introduced to his books when I was at Lesley, and I thought he was a genius. Now I know that to be true, and he's funny too! ("If you've seen pictures of me before, you know that I look different now. [He used to have dreadlocks; no more.] There's nothing more pitiful than getting out of bed in the morning, only to find that two of your dreads decided to stay in bed.")
But what you need to know about Curtis is that he went straight from high school to putting doors on cars in an assembly line in Detroit, worked there for 13 years, and wrote his debut novel, the astounding and award-winning The Watsons Go to Birmingham after his wife encouraged him to do so.
What I got from CPC--aside from writing inspiration, no small thing--was an idea of how to incorporate my story into my next school visit.