On March 3-4, 2016 nine incredible authors visited the Rio Grande Valley with the Texas Book Festival to take part in the Reading Rock Stars program. The Reading Rock Stars program brings authors and illustrators to Title I elementary schools. Following the author/illustrator presentation, each child receives an autographed copy of their book, purchased by the Texas Book Festival. You can learn more about the program here.
A kindergarten student was asked “What is your favorite book?” the morning of March 4th. He responded enthusiastically “A Bean and Cheese Taco Birthday because I like bean and cheese tacos,” he said. Diane Gonzales Bertrand’s book A Bean and Cheese Taco Birthday was brought to life as she walked through hallways with decorated doors. Students created paper plate tacos to deconstruct the “ingredients” of the book. Glittery transparencies were hung to emulate bubbles, blown by characters in a scene where they play at the park. During her presentation, Bertrand led students in singing “Happy Birthday” to her character Ariel, who celebrates his birthday in the book.
Monica Brown is no stranger to the Reading Rock Stars program. She has participated in Reading Rock Stars programs in Austin many times with her colorful picture books. Exploring new territory, Brown wrote her first chapter book series and visited the Rio Grande Valley with the Reading Rock Stars program for the first time. Her characters are diverse, fun and full of spunk! Brown introduced students to her soccer-loving character Lola Levine with her books Lola Levine Is Not Mean and Lola Levine Drama Queen. Students and teachers brought Lola Levine to life by creating a display of Lola playing soccer.
Nathan Hale brings a comedic spin to his comics based on real, historical events. Students used Hale’s book Hazardous Tales: Underground Abductor for Black History Month as a mentor text to create their own comics based on historical events. Hale left students a surprise by adding his own original sketches on some of the students’ works. Hale brings history to life for young readers during his presentation. His dynamic presentation includes constant sketching and epic jokes. Who knew history could be SO fun!?
Nikki Loftin told students to “follow your unicorn dream” during her presentation. She explained that a unicorn dream is something students deeply desire to become. Loftin and students came to an agreement that they could part with the TV for a little time each day to work on their unicorn dream, whatever that may be. Loftin explained to students that her unicorn dream was to be a writer. In her presentation, she incorporates the steps she took to achieve it.
James Luna presented his book In Place Where You Live in three languages! Luna delivered his presentation in English and Spanish, and using American Sign Language, taught students how to sign the words in his book. Students worked on projects where they discussed their community and the place where they live. Luna is a school teacher in Riverside, California and promised his own students to come back with autographed books from the other Reading Rock Star authors and pictures of food eaten on his travels.
Jon Scieszka, the Stinky Cheese Man himself, had the red carpet rolled out for him… literally! Students treated his book like a movie, giving characters, and Scieszka his own “Academy Award” constructed out of colorful straws and popsicle sticks. Students decorated hallways with robots and science displays based off his series about scientific, boy genius Frank Einstein. Some students even created actual, working robots! “After reading all six books, you are guaranteed to be a genius, or your money back!” joked Scieszka during his lively presentation. Each child received an autographed copy of the first book in the series, Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor.
Over 20 years ago, Carmen Tafolla planted a mango tree in her backyard in her then hometown, McAllen, TX. Carmen returned to McAllen with the Reading Rock Stars program where she received a warm welcome from the schools. Students and teachers decorated their doors with paletas and ice cream carts in celebration of her book What Can You Do With A Paleta?. During her presentation, Carmen stressed that each student is “un tesoro” or a treasure and that the students were the real “V.I.Ps” of the day, not the authors. After her visit to the schools, Tafolla took some fellow Reading Rock Star authors to see the growth of the mango tree at her old home. Please note, no mangos were stolen or harmed in this act.
The schools Matt Tavares visited really hit it out of the park. In honor of his book Growing Up Pedro, students and teachers suited up in their favorite baseball team jerseys. The story follows Pedro Martinez and his journey from the Dominican Republic to the major leagues. School hallways were adorned with projects they completed in the classroom in conjunction with the book. Some students even acted as baseball players while Tavares sketched them during his presentation. Tavares explained the importance of practice to students. Just like Pedro Martinez, practice will get you to the major leagues! Practice drawing, practice writing, practice baseball, whatever it is, just practice!
Steven Weinberg showed all the students just how TALL he really is (seriously though, the guy is like six foot something)! Weinberg presented his newest book You Must Be This Tall. In his newest picture book, two snakes try to ride a roller coaster at their local fair, but one snake is too short! The book follows them as they try to problem-solve on how to get onto the ride. Students created roller coasters out of cardboard that Weinberg tested with a marble. Weinberg inspired students by showing them his composition notebook from 1st grade and encouraging them to continue to read, write, and draw.