Yesterday, the girls and I were lucky enough to meet Tad Hills, author of the Duck and Goose books and most recently, How Rocket Learned to Read.
Rocket, we learned is modeled after Tad’s real dog which is no surprise. It was interesting, though, to hear how, when Tad decided that the bird in the story would be yellow he had to change the dog’s fur color. He even showed us earlier illustrations where the yellow bird camouflaged perfectly in to the dog before his coloring was changed. We also learned that Tad has super artistic kids who love all the materials that are always in their house. Tad even told us that he does all his painting on the kitchen counters. My first thought was that he must have a very patient wife. Then I learned that she really has no room for complaint as she was the one who got him into children’s illustrations. Tad also talked about the magnificent Halloween costumes he has made for his kids including the Leaning Tower of Pisa and an accordion. It appears there are many perks to having a children’s book illustrator for a dad.
The most fun was when Tad drew and painted Duck as we all watched. He showed how he sees each part of Duck as a separate piece and then puts them all together. He was quite a comedian explaining that the middle section of Duck looks like a banana that swallowed a grapefruit. The girls were still laughing about that one this morning.
Despite all the excitement, I left the event feeling pretty sad. There were about 15 people there including only my two children. The rest of the guests were grandparents looking for signed books for gifts and one teacher who stumbled upon the event while in the store for another reason. I found myself wondering sadly where all the children were.
Parents are always on the look-out for ways to get their children to learn how to read. Author visits are such an easy yet powerful way to do this. Since coming home from the event we have read all of Tad’s books more than once and last night, I stumbled upon this scene of my girls creating their own versions of Duck using colored pencils and watercolors just like Tad did. It’s hard to get more engaged in a book than this.
The message to take away from this event is that learning to love books is simple. It doesn’t involve worksheets, workbooks or computer programs. All that’s involved is engagement with books. And if you are lucky enough to engage with the creator of a book, run don’t walk to the event. Learn from the author and let his or her excitement for literature wash over you and your children. It will be time very well spent.
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