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Sneaky Guitars, Snooty Otters Make for Good Reading

March is Reading Month

An author who visited Lee Elementary recently didn’t just inspire students to put drawings of doughnuts with sprinkles on hallway walls, she made them want to read.

She didn’t just make them draw cute little otters, she taught them about manners with her book “Do Unto Otters.”

And talking to them about the state of Nevada asking the state of Mississippi to marry (so she’d be Mrs. Mississippi), in her book “Scrambled States of America” not only made them laugh, it helped them learn their states.

Bringing author Laurie Keller to the school was a special event for National Reading month, which, obviously, encourages students to read. It worked for Allison Bush. “The pictures make me want to read,” the third-grader said after the assembly.

Author and illustrator Laurie Keller is from Muskegon, and many of her books have Common Core connections

Students sat cross-legged on the cafeteria floor listening to Keller talk about how Arnie, from her book “Arnie the Doughnut,” wasn’t too thrilled when he heard he was made to be eaten. They had drawn those doughnuts with sprinkles to welcome Arnie’s creator to the school.

“Do Unto Otters” tells the story of a rabbit who, not knowing any other otters, is worried about an otter moving into the neighborhood. The quirky children’s author showed students pictures of otters (another character from her books), and guided them in drawing the animal themselves.

With the help of a guitar Keller drew on a flipboard, they got a lesson in how easy it is to change a character’s eyes to make them look happy, scared, angry or sneaky.

Why, she asked, would a guitar look sneaky?

“Because he’s trying to find his strings,” said one student. “Because he was looking for his owner, who was kidnapped,” said another.

Other advice Keller gave students was that doodling is good, and that writing homework over and over makes it get better and better.

“Hopefully what it does for them is to see that writing takes a lot of hard work,” Keller said. “I have to write my stories over a lot, but drawing the characters makes it fun.”

Keller’s “We Are Growing!” (from the Mo Willems’ “Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!” series) recently received the 2017 Theodor Seuss Geisel award from the American Library Association. The award is given to authors and illustrators for the most distinguished book for beginning readers. Besides winning that award, Keller accomplished an amazing feat with “We Are Growing”: She made it exciting to watch grass grow.

To find out how, go get the book.

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More about Laurie Keller and the books she’s written

Theodor Seuss Geisel award

Brooklyn Bowen relaxes while she listens

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Linda Odette
Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio or email Linda.

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