GBF: Opportunity for Deeper Connection with Authors and Illustrators

Gaithersburg Book Festival: Opportunity for Deeper Connection with Authors and Illustrators first appeared on the GBF website on January 4, 2016. Click link to GBF website here

By Melissa McDonald

As an elementary school librarian, my favorite part of the Gaithersburg Book Festival is the opportunity to listen to the children’s book authors and illustrators read their books and talk about their inspiration and their craft.  I can read a book aloud to my students with enthusiasm, providing the voices of the different characters, and emphasizing what I think are the important parts on each page.  However, nothing compares to an author reading aloud his or her own book to their adoring audience, or watching the illustrator start with a blank piece of white poster paper and creating the book characters in front of our eyes.  It is magical!  That moment when the author and illustrator connect with his or her readers is a great one indeed.

Throughout my school library I have pictures of myself with authors and illustrators – I think it is important to show my students that the people who create their favorite books are real people – to show them the connection we have through their written word and art.  When I am able, I like to video their talk and book reading, and love to share with my students as most of them are unable to attend events such as these.

51mdbfxwdgl-_sx258_bo1204203200_Last year I enjoyed Michelle Knudsen’s reading of Marilyn’s Monster and listening to Michelle Knudsen and Matt Phelan discuss how they worked together to create the book. Because of these videos, my students were able to connect with the book, the author, and the illustrator on a deeper level than if I had simply read the book to them.  For this I am deeply grateful, and hope that this is one way in which I can encourage life-long readers.

Michelle Knudsen’s Website:

Matt Phelan’s Website:

Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen

Michelle Knudsen and Matt Phelan discuss creation of  Marilyn’s Monster

Melissa A. McDonald is a school library media specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools and a member of the Gaithersburg Book Festival planning committee.


Bulletin Boards – Teachable Art

I consider a well-planned bulletin board not only informational, but a work of art – my media assistants think so, too – and together we have created a variety of bulletin boards over the past few years.  

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Below are a few things to think about as you create your library’s bulletin boards:

In her article Interactive Bulletin Boards – Make the Classroom Experience More User-friendly, Beth Newingham states, “ I can spend hours creating beautiful bulletin boards, but if they are not meaningful or if they do not serve a real purpose for my students, I find they do nothing more than take up important space on my walls.”

Cara Bafile interviewed author/educator Michael Gravois in her Education World article “Pretty” to Practical: Using Bulletin Boards to Teach, and he explained that, “too often bulletin boards are just thought of as decoration, when they really should emphasize the learning that is taking place in the classroom. Those two qualities do not have to be mutually exclusive; a bulletin board can be both educational and decorative.”

From Carolyn Tomlin’s article, Staff Newsletter: Bulletin Boards Make a Difference, is a helpful list of criteria:

As you create bulletin boards for your classroom, evaluate them using the following criteria:

  • Does it convey a message?
  • Is it bright and colorful?
  • Is the children’s work displayed neatly?
  • Is the material related to the children’s level of development?
  • Does it build a healthy self-concept?

Lastly, I wanted to share a wonderful resource with you – Julie Greller’s  blog, The Media Specialist’s Guide to the Internet – and her post “24 Places to Find Bulletin Board Display Ideas”.

Wishing you a spectacular school year!