What A Community

2014 took me by surprise in many ways. I want to reflect on some moments in my life as a reader and reading teacher in the year of 2014.

In January, I was contacted by the Illinois Reading Council that I had been named the 2014 Outstanding Reading Educator in the State of IL for grades PreK-5. Talk about a big surprise! I accepted the award in Springfield at the IRC Spring Conference. My special guests were Candy Fleming, Eric Rohmann, and Maria Walther. Candy and Eric gifted me with an original drawing from the Caldecott winner My Friend Rabbit. 

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Over the summer, I had my first experience presenting at a conference. I spoke at the CUNE Early Childhood Conference in Seward, NE to primary teachers about building joy and passion in the primary classroom. I later gave the same presentation at the fall IRC conference. I learned that I love presenting and it is something I am going to try and do more of in the coming year and years.

I also had the chance to do a lot of reading over the summer, and three books I read over the summer struck a chord with me. I have not forgotten these titles all year and they will stick with me for a while. They are:

El Deafo was especially meaningful to me as Cece Bell sent me one of the last ARCs she had picked up from ALA that summer. I passed it on and it made a trail as it found its way to the hearts of other readers.

Throughout the Fall, I got to have three mountaintop dining experiences.

Donalyn Miller and I met up for dinner in Seward, NE in September at the Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival. We chatted until the restaurant closed, and probably could have talked for longer. I wish we lived closer so we could do it more often.

I surprised Judy Schachner on her book birthday/release day on October 21 in Milwaukee, WI. It was a last minute trip for me, because I did not know Judy would be so close until the day before when her tour was announced on Skippy’s Facebook page. It was a delight to catch up with Judy.

Dr. Mary Howard presented in Rockford, IL in October and we could not miss the chance to get together the night before and have dinner. It was a great night, and a great seminar the next day. I am looking forward to the next time Mary is back in Rockford!

A project I work on year round is the chance to bring authors and illustrators to our school. We raise money through grants and sponsorships and bring the best we can to our little school. This year, we were able to bring Rosemary Wells, Peter Brown, and David Catrow. Over 1,000 students from the area came in over the course of the day by the bus load to hear these authors present. It was such a great experience, and we are working hard on plans for 2015…. So far, Marc Brown, Jerry Pallotta, Denise Fleming, and David Biedrzycki are on our line up. It is going to take a lot to make it all happen, but we are ambitious and dreaming big! 

Through various venues and conferences, I was able to meet 42 different children’s book authors and illustrators this year, and I have now met over 100 total. Am I blessed or what? Thankful to Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville for hosting some great authors. The conferences I attended were the Fall/Spring IRC conference, Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival in Seward, NE; Anderson’s Children’s Literature Breakfast, and more.

In 2015 I am planning to attend ALA Midwinter, All Write in Warsaw, IN, the IRC Fall Conference, and more.

What a community- a family- we have as readers, reading teachers, authors, and friends. I am so thankful I have gotten the chance to meet so many wonderful people in person and on Facebook and Twitter. I only recently realized how much I love this community….

Just recently, suddenly, and unexpectedly, my 19 year old sister died and went to her heavenly home. My entire family has been shook to the core with grief and sadness. I am amazed, touched, and inspired by the kindness I have seen outstretched by so many on Twitter and Facebook. Author and Reading Teacher friends have reached out in ways by donating to memorial funds in her honor, sending me care packages, and offering kind words, cards, thoughts, and prayers. I have not met so many of them, but I consider them all friends and I will never forget the kindness expressed. Seriously, where else could you find such a loving community other than the world of children’s literature? I know 2015 will be hard as I continue to wade through the grief and pain, but it is so comforting to know so many of you are at my side and helping me deal with it. Words cannot express my sincere thanks and gratitude for all you’ve said and done. I only hope that one day I can repay the kindness I have seen by doing something in return for you. I send my love to you all.

Here’s to a great 2015, with many more interactions, celebrations, and more.

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