Williamstown Elementary School students giggled and shouted “Ewwwww!” as author/illustrator Jason Chin told them about salty iguana snot. Behind him a slideshow showed photographs of the salty, snotty creatures sunbathing in the Galapagos Islands, images from his research trip there for his children’s book Island: A Story of the Galapagos. Then, laughter erupted as he told a story of a baby sea lion blowing bubbles at him underwater while he SCUBA dived off the islands. Chin’s slideshow alternated between his photographs from these and other research trips that helped him write his popular non-fiction children’s books, and his illustrations in various stages of completeness. Jason Chin explained his process of writing and illustrating children’s books to the students of Williamstown Elementary School as part of WES’ CLiF Year of the Book grant.
Jason is the author/illustrator of more than ten children’s non-fiction books that focus primarily on nature. His next book, Grand Canyon, will be released next month, kicking off at a book launch on February 17th at the Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, VT.
Jason gave two presentations at Williamstown Elementary School yesterday, to a group of kindergarteners through second graders, then to third through fifth graders. After he talked about his inspiration, research, and process – along with adventures everywhere form the Redwood Forest to the reefs of Belize – the students got to see his work in action. A brave young volunteer came to the front of the room and held up a copy of Jason’s first author/illustrated book, Redwoods, mouth agape in feigned surprise, like the book’s character who sees New York City transform into the Redwood Forest in front of his eyes (see photo above). Jason explained how he often uses live models to inspire his drawings, and showed examples of his many drafts to show students how his ideas and images evolve. During the Q&A sessions, young hands waved in the air enthusiastically and students asked Jason questions like “Do you read everyday?” (Yes.) “How old were you when you made your first book?” (In second grade.) and “How long does it take you to make a book?” (Usually one-to-two years.) He also told the story of how an author/illustrator who visited his school when he was a child inspired him to pursue his love of drawing as a career, and eventually became his mentor. Heads nodded around the room, no doubt some of them filled with the thought, “I can do that, too.”
After each session, students lined up to choose two new books to keep from the four long tables stacked with new children’s books, including 42 donated by Bear Pond Books of Montpelier through their holiday book drive. This is always my favorite part of CLiF events. Kids are buzzing with excitement and inspiration from the stories they’ve just heard and what they learned from CLiF’s presenter (Jason Chin is one of 55 CLiF presenters, including children’s book authors, illustrators, graphic novelists, poets, and storytellers), and their faces spread into smiles seeing the displays of hundreds of brand new books for them to choose from. Some know exactly what they want (“Which Elephant & Piggie books do you have?” “Oh, I haven’t read that one yet!”), while some kids’ eyes are glazed over, overwhelmed by their options. These are the kids I seek out, the wide-eyed ones surveying the vast collection of books, looking lost in the sea of choice. I ask them what their favorite books are or what they like. Animals? Science? Mysteries? Funny books? We have that. If they’re shy or unsure or afraid of saying the wrong thing, I give them a little information on a variety of books and suggest ones that I particularly love. Few things make me happier than a child proudly showing off their new books, already flipping through them in line, excited to dive in, or showing them off to their friends, exclaiming “Look what I got!”
This event was one of many author visits and storytelling sessions, book giveaways, literacy celebrations, and more at Williamstown Elementary School as part of their 2016-2017 CLiF Year of the Book grant ($25,000 of literacy programming designed to promote a culture of literacy within the community). Throughout the year, each child gets to pick out up to ten books of their own to keep. So far this year, Williamstown students have heard several thrilling stories from CLiF presenters, including Jim Arnosky and Elizabeth Bluemle, enjoyed a community ice cream social to celebrate families’ commitment to reading together regularly, and next week, will have a family literacy night called “For the LOVE of Reading.” Williamstown Elementary School is one of nine schools across Vermont and New Hampshire who were awarded the CLiF 2016-2017 Year of the Book grant.
Applications are now open for CLiF’s 2017-2018 Year of the Book grant (deadline February 8, 2017). New Hampshire and Vermont elementary schools with at least 25% of students underperforming on reading and writing assessments and at least 30% qualifying for free/reduced lunch are eligible to apply. Click here or contact us for more details.
CLiF sponsors events like this all over the Twin States every week, most of which are open to the public. Take a look at our calendar for upcoming events near you. We hope to see you at one soon!