Friday, November 4th, 2011 was a full day of “Animal Antics” at Harvey Oaks Elementary. The school’s principal, Mrs. Dawn Marten, was the assistant principal at Neihardt Elementary, an Omaha school we visited last fall (November 8, 2010). Without a doubt, Mrs. Marten’s fond memories of our visit to Neihardt contributed to our warm reception at Harvey Oaks.
In celebration of my visit, students in kindergarten through 5th grade wrote stories or drew pictures inspired by my books. We were amazed by the quality and quantity of creative work produced by the Harvey Oaks’ students.
Matthew Shane Bronson & Tammy Carter Bronson at Harvey Oaks Elementary
An underwater bulletin board featured original, multicolored sea horse art inspired by “Sea Horse, run!”.
Close-up of sea horses by Harvey Oaks students.
First grade students painted lovely, underwater scenes inspired by Polliwog.
Watercolor paintings by 1st grade students at Harvey Oaks Elementary inspired by POLLIWOG. .
9:00 – 9:35 am Kindergarten
9:45 – 10:30 am 2nd Grade
10:50 – 11:25 am 1st Grade
11:30 – 12:30 pm Lunch provided by Bear Creek Coffee Cafe
12:30 – 1:15 pm 5th Grade
1:25 – 2:10 pm 4th Grade
2:20 – 3:05 pm 3rd Grade
More POLLIWOG art by 1st graders at Harvey Oaks.
Fourth grade students wrote stories that utilized a character trait from Tiny Snail. Some stories demonstrated attitude, self-esteem or how to set goals, while other stories reinforced attributes such as courage, perseverence, or gratitude.
A wall of stories by 4th grade students at Harvey Oaks Elementary.
Tammy C. Bronson and the Harvey Oaks Librarian, Sue Hillman.
The school’s librarian, Sue Hillman, presented us with a gift basket featuring foods made in Nebraska.
Harvey Oaks Elementary Gift Basket
Ms. Cook, a 3rd grade teacher at Harvey Oaks, applied for and won a grant from the Milliard Public Schools Foundation. This “Animal Antics Grant” supported my author visit which focused on snails, frogs and sea horses. The grant also paid for a complete collection of World Books of Animals for the school library. Later this year, the grant will enable Harvey Oaks students to connect with animals through a trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo.
The new World Book collection at Harvey Oaks Elementary.
Congratulations, Harvey Oaks, on winning your grant, and thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of your “Animal Antics.” We will treasure the memories!
Morton Elementary went “to infinity and beyond” when they organized an Enrichment Day based on my author visit. It was amazing!
Every hour of Enrichment Day was designed to support one of my books. A representative from the Henry Doorly Zoo spoke with students about ocean animals, a program that supported “Sea Horse, run!”. Another talk entitled “Project Wild” included real toads and frogs in honor of my Polliwog book and was presented by the Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium in Gretna, Nebraska. A violinist and a percussionist demonstrated instruments and talked to students about the orchestra. Both orchestra programs reinforced the educational aspects of our Kaleidonotes book.
Meanwhile, in Morton’s library I discussed how I wrote, illustrated and published my picture books.
Students’ art decorated windows and walls throughout the school, and I especially loved the welcome sign taped to the office window.
Shane admires the welcome sign in the office window at Morton Elementary.
"Welcome Guests" Sign by Morton Students
Close-up of the Sign by Morton Students
The students and staff of Morton Elementary presented us with a Certificates of Appreciation.
Certificate of Appreciation Presented by Morton Elementary
Morton’s librarian, Heidi Neumann, did a fantastic job organizing and hosting the event, and we are so grateful to Karen Adams for making our visit possible by handling the book sales on behalf of Barnes and Noble.
Left to Right: Morton Librarian Heidi Neumann, Author Tammy C. Bronson, Karen Adams of Milliard Public Schools
Thank you, Morton Elementary, for making November 3rd, 2011 a day to remember!
The students and staff at Liberty Christian School in Argyle, Texas gave me a warm welcome Tuesday morning, November 1st. My program was in the Fine Arts Auditorium where they had a giant screen that lowered in front of the stage. The librarian, Yvonne Lacy, provided a document camera so I could project images of my books on the screen for 3rd through 6th grades.
3rd/4th Grades from 8:40 to 9:25 am
6th Grade from 9:45 to 10:30 am
5th Grade from 10:35 to 11:20 am
Mrs. Lacy did a fantastic job preparing the students for my visit. Many of them were serious writers in their own right and very interested in the publication process.
My first author visit of the 2011-2012 school year was yesterday at Good Shepherd Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas. We spoke to kindergarden through 2nd grade, and the presentations were in the new library which houses almost 29,000 books, an aquarium filled with corals and tropical fish, two parakeets, and a yellow rat snake! Their amazing library is located in the school’s new Center for Creative Learning which is the first elementary school in Texas to be awarded LEED Gold certification established by the U.S. Green Building Council.
From left to right: Author Matthew Shane Bronson, Author/Illustrator Tammy Carter Bronson, and Librarian Liz Fleskes.
Both the librarian, Liz Fleskes, and her assistant, Claudia Hinton, made us feel very welcome. They treated us to lunch from the Corner Bakery along with coffee, snacks and a beautiful display featuring our books.
Good Shepherd's Book Display
The students were well prepared for the visit. They were familiar with every story, and several students sent us fan mail after the program. My favorite is from the youngest student to ever send me an email:
“Hello–My name is Jordan. I am a pre-Kindergarten student at Good Shepherd Episcopal School. Thanks for coming to visit with us today. I wish that I had brought you some flowers. I hope you can come and visit us again.
P. S. My daughter was insistent on sending you this thank you email. You obviously made quite an impression today. Thank you.”
What a perfect visit to begin the new school year! Thank you, Good Shepherd Episcopal, for inviting us to your school. We enjoyed meeting your students, and we are grateful for the wonderful memories!
If you want to write for children, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is a great organization to join. Although it is an international organization with annual meetings in New York City (January) and Los Angeles (August), your membership entitles you to participate in conferences and/or retreats happening in any state or region around the world. Attending a conference or retreat will give you the opportunity to fine tune your manuscript by getting feedback from an editor or literary agent. You will also learn what types of manuscripts editors or literary agents want to publish.
St. Scholastica Monastery
The Arkansas SCBWI writer’s retreat occurs every fall, and in recent years writers from across the state have converged on the Saint Scholastica Retreat Center in Fort Smith for three days of intensive work on their writing. The retreat center, sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters, shares a 66 acre wooded area with Saint Scholastica Monastery, and the secluded setting is the perfect spot for contemplation and inspiration. I attended in 2009 and 2010, and during both retreats I made great progress with the revisions for my novel.
Sadly, I will be out of the state during the conference this year, but you may be able to attend! If you submit pages from your manuscript by October 1st, you will receive feedback from the editor at the retreat. The 15th annual Arkansas SCBWI Fall Retreat for Writers of Children’s Literature (November 4th-6th, 2011) will feature hands-on workshops led by Stacy Cantor Abrams, editor at Walker Books for Young Readers, and guidance on craft issues by Anna Myers, an Oklahoma author of nineteen novels for middle-grade and young adults.
You must be an SCBWI member to attend. Registration is usually by invitation only, and reservations are on a first come, first served basis. Email the Retreat Director (retreat @ arkansasscbwi.org) if you are interested in joining SCBWI and attending the retreat.
SCBWI Membership: First year is $85. Annual renewal fee is $70. Join SCBWI
Arkansas Fall Retreat: $280 (Includes meals, snacks, all sessions, and private rooms with a shared bath.)
I often use Charlotte’s Web in writing workshops with older students (2nd-5th grades) because the plot of the book is a perfect example of a “Hero’s Journey.” I use three questions to begin the discussion. The answers to these questions help define the beginning, middle, and end of the book.
Who is the hero? Wilbur
Many students will name Charlotte as the hero, but she is a supporting character I like to call, “the Teacher Character,” because she helps the hero the most on his journey. Wilbur is the hero because he wants something, but he won’t achieve his goal until the end.
What does the hero want?Wilbur wants to live.
This is the hero’s goal, and it determines the end of the book. In Charlotte’s Web, Wilbur wants to live, and several supporting characters help make his dream a reality as the story unfolds.
What is the problem, or why is Wilbur’s life in danger? Fern’s uncle, Mr. Zuckerman, wants to eat him!
Several supporting characters, including Charlotte and Templeton the rat, help Wilbur convince Mr. Zuckerman that he is “SOME PIG” and way too “TERRIFIC” to eat.
Below is an outline I created of the plot in Charlotte’s Web. Teachers, feel free to use this outline in the classroom. It’s a great tool for readers and writers. Seeing how the story unfolds, step-by-step, might help you outline the plot in your own story.
Double-click to view and print the full page.
For more information about E. B. White and Charlotte’s Web, try these websites:
He makes a great case for creating an education system that nurtures rather than undermines creativity. His full 20 minute lecture at the 2006 TED* conference can be seen on YouTube. If you don’t have time for a 20 minute talk, this wonderful animation of another talk by Sir Ken (10 minutes) is definitely worth watching:
His message resonates with me because Sir Ken says we are educating children out of their creative capacities. Standardized tests are killing creativity, but at the current speed of change in our society, creativity is not only essential but necessary to our survival.
I can relate. I was discouraged from pursuing an art degree at college because people said, “There are no jobs for artists,” or “Artists don’t make money. You have to make money!” Now, without any formal art education, I make a living as a writer and artist.
I consider myself to be a creative person despite the fact that standardized tests told me otherwise. When I entered the 9th grade I was given a test that would specifically measure my creativity. IF I passed the test, I would be enrolled in a “Gifted and Talented” course. I failed. My test results clearly indicated that I was NOT creative enough to be considered talented. I was not allowed in the gifted class my 9th, 10th, or 11th grade years, but my senior year I was finally enrolled, not because I passed the test, but because with no creativity and an average IQ, I consistently out-performed the “gifted and talented” students. My teachers were puzzled. How did I do it? The answer was simple. I didn’t believe the test results. I believed that with hard work and perseverance I could accomplish anything, and I graduated valedictorian and obtained a four-year scholarship to the University of Arkansas.
Sir Ken argues that creativity is undervalued by our school system, but I believe that is changing. Elementary schools around the country invite me to visit and encourage their children to be creative. The programs are not directed at a few, select, gifted students. I’m invited to speak to ALL of the students. Also, it’s very common for elementary schools to have young author programs. At those schools, every student is encouraged to write and illustrate a story. Schools are changing. We just need to remember that a standardized test is about measuring the knowledge in one person’s head, but the knowledge one person possesses doesn’t matter in our global society. In today’s global world…
The way you interact with other people matters.
The effect your actions have on other people matters.
Your ability to inspire, support and uplift other people matters.
I travel and speak to children across the country because I’m looking for kids like me. As a child I was told I wasn’t good enough or smart enough or creative enough. Thankfully, I didn’t believe those people, but sadly, some children are still discouraged by the system. I tell those kids, “Believe in yourself.” My first picture book, TINY SNAIL, sends that message. Look inside yourself, find your strengths, and nurture them. Believe in yourself, and with enough hard work and perseverance, you will succeed–especially if you use your gifts to help others along the way.
*More About TED…
TED stands for: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Started in 1984 by a publishing magazine entrepreneur, TED’s vision and scope has expanded to include:
Two annual conferences…
-Spring TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs
-Summer TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK
The award-winning TEDTalks video site.
The Open Translation Project and TED Conversations.
The inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs.
The annual TED Prize.
“The annual TED conferences, in Long Beach/Palm Springs and Edinburgh, bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less).” About TED.
“The goal of the foundation is to foster the spread of great ideas. It aims to provide a platform for the world’s smartest thinkers, greatest visionaries and most-inspiring teachers, so that millions of people can gain a better understanding of the biggest issues faced by the world, and a desire to help create a better future. Core to this goal is a belief that there is no greater force for changing the world than a powerful idea.” From http://www.ted.com/pages/42.
I was deeply honored to speak at the DallasKidsRead! children’s book festival at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library (1515 Young Street) in Dallas, Texas on Thursday, July 28th. Big Thought and the Dallas Public Library partnered with the City of Dallas and the Dallas Independent School District to provide an educational enrichment event for all 2nd through 5th grade students as part of the Thriving Minds Summer Camp program. Students from four elementary schools came to the central library to hear nine authors and illustrators discuss their children’s books. In addition to me, the authors and illustrators included:
Crystal Allen Author of How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy.
Joe Cepeda Award-winning illustrator of more than 35 books including What a Cool World and The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman (written by my fellow Arkansas author, Darcy Pattison).
Toni Simmons Award-winning author of The Cheese Chase: Why Dogs Chase Cats.
Don Tate Award-winning author and illustrator of more than 40 children’s books including Black All Around!
Willy Welch Children’s entertainer, recording artist and author of Playing Right Field.
Multiple workshops took place in the morning and afternoon. During a brief midday break the branch manager, Sharon Martin, gave us a walking tour of the central library. I saw two amazing and unexpected treasures on the 7th floor: the “Lost Copy” of the Declaration of Independence and a Shakespeare First Folio compiled in 1623.
The event was open to the public from 4 to 7 PM. Each author and illustrator shared their books/art with children and their families while Jokae’s African-American Bookstore sold books for the presenters. It was a fabulous opportunity for children and their families to meet several authors and illustrators from across the country. If you live in the Dallas area, plan to attend the 2012 summer event. It will be a rewarding experience!
J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, 1515 Young St., Dallas, TX.