Becoming an Author


Years ago I read two books (well really three) that inspired by teaching and writing. I was a newly minted six grade teacher and the language arts coordinator at the time was Mildred Middleton. She quietly mentored me, and after a few months she was bringing visiting teachers through my classroom. Later she told me it was because I had taken to her suggestions and my sixth graders, which included a small group of incorrigible learners, were thriving. They were, but I was too naive to know that the success was anything other than what it was supposed to be. During my own educational experience I had not been taught phonics per se, but these students knew every single rule there was. They had had special help from the time they had entered school. However, they could not read. Lucky to be on a second grade level they struggled. But I taped social studies texts for them, created spelling tests that they took independently, and encouraged them to read, read, read. We read aloud, we read in pairs, we read alone, in short any chance we got we read. We did some extensions to the poems and stories we read but never over-kill. Some of my colleagues were using literature but sometimes the activities/extensions were much longer than the book itself. We had fun. We talked about books and played with illustrations. We used one book to inspire us to read another story or poem. When we had a question about something we read, we searched out the information we needed.

The inspiration for this approach came from a book discovered by Mildred Middleton. As the district's language arts coordinator she purchased a copy for every single elementary classroom in the district -- at the time probably over 400 classrooms. The title of the book: Easy in English: An Imaginataive Approach to the Teaching of the Language Arts by Mauree Applegate (Harper, 1960). The ideas shared simple response to add a hands on connection to many poems, folkstories, and other literature related activities. At the time the book shaped much of my teaching, later when I began to write, the book shaped the way I thought about teaching reading and writing and how I would share that thinking.

Books and Authors


Several years later after attending graduate school at the University of Iowa and earning my masters in library science, I discovered the second and third book that added to Applegate's inspiration. Those two books were the author profiles written by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Hopkins was a teacher and once he became interested in the writings for children he set out to find out about several authors and their stories about their writing. He interviewed 104 authors and illustrators of books for young children. Those interviews were published in a book titled, Books Are by People: Interviews with 104 Authors and Illustrators of Books for Young Children (Macmillan/Citation, 1969). He followed that book with a second one, More Books by More People (Macmillan/Citation Press, 1974). Those two books provided and continue to provide inspiration. Lee Bennett Hopkins is a world renowned poet and anthologist. Awards have been named in his honor, and poets aspire to emulate his talent. Learn more about him at

Bringing it together


As I continued teaching I used this information to share much about authors and illustrators and about their books. I connected books to curriculum and continued to savor the reading and the connections. My first book An Author a Month (for Pennies) was published by Libraries Unlimited in 1988. Libraries Unlimited has, over several acquisitions, morphed into a division of ABC-CLIO. Other books followed, continuing the connections of author information and a book's back story to ways the author's books could be integrated into every corner of the curriculum. Soon other books followed until even the books morphed in focus but always concerned with the interesting stories about authors and illustrators and how their experiences became books, and how those books could shimmer for children and other readers.

For a complete list of books check out this link.

footer bar