Monday, September 6, 2010

8th September International Literacy Day Byron Barton Jack Prelutsky (1940) Jon Scieszka (1954) Stephen Michael King (1963) Emily Gravett (1972)

Wow five birthdays on International Literacy Day! These authors and illustrators chose the 'right' day to celebrate their birthday. The UN has literacy high on its list of priorities. On their website for this day it says
Literacy is a cause for celebration since there are now close to four billion literate people in the world. However, literacy for all – children, youth and adults - is still an unaccomplished goal and an ever moving target. A combination of ambitious goals, insufficient and parallel efforts, inadequate resources and strategies, and continued underestimation of the magnitude and complexity of the task accounts for this unmet goal. Lessons learnt over recent decades show that meeting the goal of universal literacy calls not only for more effective efforts but also for renewed political will and for doing things differently at all levels - locally, nationally and internationally.

I am fortunate to have been born into a literate family, in a country that is wealthy enough to provide education for boys and girls alike, and I spend my working day imbuing very young children with a purpose and an environment conducive to learning to, not only read and write, but to love doing so. I want the children I teach to be readers who choose to read not only to learn, but also for pleasure. I want them to be readers for life. The five birthday authors want children to read their publications too, but more than that they want them to enjoy the experience and to want to repeat it. They love it enough to repeat the publication process. As there are so many and each of them is outstanding at what they do and deserves to have reams written about them, I feel I cannot do them justice in such a short space and time. Where they have a website I will send you there and the five titles illustrated are a very arbitrary choice because each has so many titles that could have been chosen.

Jack Prelutsky is an American poet who has so many anthologies of poems it is hard to pick just one that is a favourite. I have chosen Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant only because I have only recently been introduced to Carin Berger's illustrations and I love them. When I think of Jack's poems I think funny, foolish or frightening, because they are the three things I think he does well in poetry.

Jon Scieszka deserves to be mentioned on this day because he is instrumental in making sure that boys read. His website Guys Read outlines what he has put in place to encourage boys to get involved in reading by finding books that they like. One of the Kindergarten classes at school had fun a few weeks ago with Jon's new picture book Robot Zot! There were robots everywhere in that room for a couple of weeks!

Stephen Michael King is a very well known Australian illustrator. He has picture books of his own, such as the wonderful Leaf, illustrates for other authors and does many book covers. His cover for the fifth Kingdom of Silk book (called Plum Puddings and Paper Moons) by Glenda Millard is about to be available and I cannot wait.

Emily Gravett is my current favourite illustrator of all time. I love the way each of her books is unique, nothing like the one before, or the one to come. I am always amazed at her ideas. I love Wolves and each time I pore over it I find something new to be in awe of. I especially like the way she combines pencil with other media and the way she uses white.

Byron Barton doesn't appear to have a website and I don't know when he was born, but what I do know is that his book Boats was my son's favourite book as a toddler and he still has a great love of boats and wants to make a career working with them. His other non fiction titles such as Dinosaurs Dinosaurs, Trucks, Trains and Airport are popular with the preschoolers who use my library too.

P.S. Byron Barton was born in 1930.

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