by Carol Hageman
I am a first-time author of a children’s book entitled Bubby’s Puddle Pond: A Tortuga’s Tale of the Desert. My book has been in publication for less than a year and I have had several book signings and school visits, but recently, I was invited by a school to read my book and do a presentation on the artwork before 800 students in grades K-3.
The academic coach wanted the students to become more aware of the arts. I accepted the challenge, but after I hung up the phone, I realized what I had just agreed to. Up until now, my presentations were typically in the range of 50 students. However, I reminded myself of the years of experience I had acquired as a volunteer in my daughter’s elementary school and library. I thoroughly enjoyed working with children, tutoring them in reading, and being involved with the Art Masterpiece Program. That’s when I realized, I could take on a project of this size, too.
Just a month earlier, I had the opportunity to purchase all of the artwork from the book. It included pencil and ink sketches, a small draft of the book and all of the watercolors. I thought the children might be interested in learning how a book is produced. I would tie that in with the art that made the book special.
When I arrived at the school, I was led to the auditorium to set up. I was told there would be two sessions. The kindergarten and first-graders would be together for a slightly simplified version of the presentation, followed by the second- and third-graders for a more advanced version. I prepared the tables by laying out the pencil sketches, ink sketches, and the watercolors in succession, as they appeared in the book.
After introducing myself, I asked the students how many of them liked to draw, how many liked to read, how many liked to write. After all the little hands went down, I told them there are many new authors and artists in the audience. I told them art comes in many different forms from paintings to sculptors to crafts and drawings. Just like in my book. All of the artwork was done in watercolors.
I shared a story of my experience years ago, when I volunteered in the classroom helping children produce their own book. The students would hand-write their story and I would type them and make a cover out of construction paper. The students would then illustrate the pages and cover. After everyone completed their book, they would read it to the class.
I then proceeded to explain what it took to produce my own book. I started with the front cover, the copyright page, the dedication page, content of the story, fact pages, glossary, curriculum page, and the creative team pages. Finally, the back cover. I explained how many professionals are involved in the production process. Starting with the author, followed by the illustrator, editor, graphic designer, curriculum writer, proofreaders, project manager, production staff, and printers.
The academic coach had scanned the book in order to project it on a large screen as I read it to the students. After the story was finished, pre-selected students came up on stage to ask a question, using the microphone before the student assembly. I answered their questions, and followed up by encouraging them to follow their dreams. If they enjoy reading, writing, and drawing, someday they might be an author, or work on a professional team to produce a book.
Finally, the children were invited to walk by the table to view the artwork. I was so pleased with their responses of enthusiasm! They shared with me who their favorite character was in the story, had positive comments about the watercolors, and thanked me for visiting their school. Needless to say, I left feeling very gratified. I felt very comfortable before 800 children and would love the opportunity to do it again.