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Friday, June 12, 2009

Alliance Theatre, Institute for Educators

     Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking to about 30 Early Education Teachers and Teaching Artists about Paco and the Giant Chile Plant and my forthcoming picture book, Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón! (my first book as both illustrator and author)!
     Education Director, Nancy Meyer invited me after seeing a dummy of SOAP in my portfolio at our last SCBWI Springmingle Conference. She came running to me asking, "What is this and when is it coming out!?"
     I soon learned that Nancy had been reading through dozens and dozens of bilingual picture books looking for one that would fit the educational needs of their program. It needed to have several elements which were apparently very difficult to find in any one book. SOAP was her answer!
     One problem, SOAP doesn't come out until this Fall and their planning needed to happen now.
     We spoke with my editor and arranged to have dummies made through Lulu.com for use during their planning sessions (the program goes live this Fall) and Nancy put together a Teacher's Guide on how to use the story in classrooms.
     Yesterday, it was presented to the Teachers and Teaching Artists. Nancy invited me to open the session by talking about my process and journey into picture books (along with the evolution of stories and finding that unifying thread/style in one's life). Then I got to sit back and see what they had put together for SOAP. And can I tell you, I got all choked up, I really did.

     Nancy read the story using her theatre experience with lots of fun voices and dramatic effects thrown in. I had to join the crowd on the floor - these are mostly Kindergarten teachers after all (that's me in the shawl). It was SO FUN to hear SOAP in somebody else's voice with their own interpretation.
     I've always said picture books are like performance art - art that is not complete until it is being shared. And I don't mean shared by me, I mean shared by people who have their own stake in the story - sharing it with people they care about. It's an awesome thing to see your book come to life like that.
     And the program! I would have so loved to be a kid with these visiting Teaching Artists. They are completely engaged and make sure the kids are too. In fact, they just completed a three year study of their efforts and kids who experience Teaching Artists come back with highly improved numbers in all areas.
     No surprise there - art and music stimulate the brain to do everything better! I just wish ALL kids could experience this.
     Many thanks to Nancy Meyer for introducing me to this fine group, Kim Bowers-Rheay for so enthusiastically explaining everything to me (we have a mutual friend from my college days - Hi Mark! It's been great to reconnect), and to Carol Jones, the Director of the Alliance Theatre Institute for Educators and Teaching Artists. (And thanks to 'Juanita' for taking great pics!) It's obvious you all have created a wonderful thing that is really making a difference in children's lives. I am SO THRILLED that SOAP will be a part of that!!!

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