West Chester University’s Department of Literacy and College of Education hosted their Fourth Annual Children’s Literature Conference this past Saturday, Oct. 20. This event, 3E Institute, was sponsored by Verizon and The Institute for Educational Excellence and Entrepreneurship, 3E is an organization at West Chester University that established the Educator 500 to recognize, reward and support entrepreneurial educators who create original, exciting learning opportunities for their students. A person can visit their Web site at www.3einstitute.org for more information concerning entrepreneurial openings. First to speak at the conference was Linda Sue Park, most notably the winner of the 2001 Newbery Medal for her writing of “A Single Shard.” Park gave an intriguing family-oriented explanation of her writings and the influence she receives from her Korean background.
Many, if not all, of Park’s books pull from the different aspects of her background, and she even interviewed her parents and based “When My Name Was Keoko” on their provided information. Her most recent publication, “Tap Dancing on the Roof,” explores the dimensions of poetry written in the Korean sijo form, a bit like the more commonly known haiku form.
Park explained that the message of each of her books was to leave readers reaching for another book as they turned the final page. No matter the genre, Park is sure to incorporate some sort of her past into her work, resulting in a text that bursts with enthusiasm and authenticity.
Next up was J. Patrick Lewis, who is known for both his picture books and poetry, gave a comical performance of his journey towards becoming a writer. Lewis, wanting to be a DJ when he was a boy, fell in love with literature late in life. With the discovery of literature from a college professor of his, Lewis then knew what he was supposed to do with his life- write.
Lewis recalls buying a large trashcan as he took his first steps towards becoming a writer for he feels, “Nothing succeeds like failure.” Failing everyday led him to where he is today and gave him the great knowledge he currently has. Lewis explained that we would be nothing, and learn nothing, if it were not for occasional failure, or in his case, daily failure.
One can find Lewis’s latest publication, “Poems for Teaching in the Content Areas,” in nearby bookstores.
Closing the Annual Literature Conference, was the first Children’s Poet Laureate of the United States, Jack Prelutsky. This singer/writer has become a household standard, mesmerizing readers of all ages with his inventive poetry.
Expressing that his love for literature has come from the many letters he receives from fans, Prelutsky told stories of his past experiences with school visits and the various “questions” he is asked from young children. With curiosity of his different sized teeth, to requesting copies of his latest books, Prelutsky was hooked and could not stray away from his true passion in life. Dreaming of becoming a New York Yankee, cowboy and fighter jet pilot as a child, many would agree that writing is more suitable for this incredible man.
Captivating his admirers with the songs he sings, Prelutsky welcomed audience members to join him as he took the stage. Leading the chants, the entire room was soon filled with tones of music, as audience members sang along with his creative wordplay. Retaining the audience’s attention was obviously not a concern of his.
Prelutsky encouraged teachers to present poems to their students in a variety of ways, incorporating sound effects, music, pictures and actions to interest those who may be struggling and integrate content of lesson plans.
In his 60-minute presentation, it was evident why Prelutsky is such a world renowned children’s literature author. In fact, each of these authors provided knowledgeable information and told inspiring stories, making it easy to comprehend why they are as successful as they are today.
After the presentations were complete, attendants had the opportunity to purchase books such as Park’s “The Firekeeper’s Son,” “What Does Bunny See?” and “Bee-bim Bop!,” Lewis’ “Under the Kisseltoe, Scien-Trickery” and “Aithme-Tickle” and Prelutsky’s “What A Day It Was At School,” “Ride A Purple Pelican” and “A pizza the size of the sun.” After purchasing these masterpieces, attendants had the privilege of standing in the quickly forming lines to meet with and have these books personalized by the authors.
The Children’s Literature Conference was a truly joyous experience and is highly recommended by all. If one was unable to attend this year, keep eyes open for information concerning next year’s conference. If a person is studying in the field of education or English, this is something not to miss.
Maggie Cosgrove is a second-year student majoring in elementary education. She can be reached at MC626229@wcupa.edu.