Bringing Reading Rock Stars to Dallas

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The Texas Book Festival celebrated our first-ever Reading Rock Stars in Dallas last month, and we couldn’t be happier about it. We brought three authors—James Luna, Hena Khan, and former First Lady and Texas Book Festival co-founder Laura Bush—to Thomas Tolbert Elementary, where the authors presented to students from kindergarten to fifth grade and we gave away 580 free books. I’m excited to share some of the highlights!


When RRS authors  James Luna and Hena Khan arrived at Thomas Tolbert with my coworker and me, we were greeted not only by the librarian and principal but by two students specially assigned to be the authors’ “assistants” for the day. They walked us through the halls, explaining what each class had worked on as they read the books.


For James Luna’s The Place Where You Live, kindergartners created dioramas of their neighborhoods and homes using creative materials like marshmallows and toothpicks to create the structures. For Mrs. Bush’s book Our Great Big Backyard, each second grade classroom chose a national park to research, and made their own park rangers with facts about their park and its animals. For Hena Khan’s Amina’s Voice, students created artwork that reflected their personal identities, compared countries to each other and made their own geometric mosaics similar to those used in Islamic art. Thomas Tolbert students worked hard to make each creation personal, including details on how they wear their hair, who their favorite singers are, and how they feel they are similar to Khan’s main characters, Amina and her brother.


In his presentation to the kindergartner class, James Luna taught students sign language and led them in writing their own pages to add to The Place Where You Live. During Hena Khan’s presentation, students asked thoughtful questions about Mrs. Khan’s background and motivations for writing the book.


When Mrs. Bush entered the auditorium, the Thomas Tolbert choir greeted her with several songs—some of which including choreography! They were so excited to see the former First Lady that the students introducing her were dressed to the nines, sporting a tuxedo and a glittery tulle dress! The teachers were not shy about their excitement either: they created a campsite on her presentation stage that perfectly reflected the theme of her book.


Much of the success of this event is owed to Thomas Tolbert’s principal LaKeisha Smith and librarian, Angela Morris-Watts. Their enthusiasm for reading is evident in every inch of their building. The Texas Book Festival is proud to have held our very first Reading Rock Stars school in Dallas at Thomas Tolbert Elementary. We are excited to go back next year and continue to expand in the Dallas area!