Archive for Kids

Witnesses to History

We are all witnesses to history. Few of us have ever experienced the things we are going through now, and hopefully we’ll never have to again. Masks, social distancing, sheltering-in-place, closed stores, restaurants, parks, playgrounds, and schools. Lots of people getting sick. Many dying. Quarantine. Every person is affected in some way.

I’ve met with many students around the country and spoken about the power of writing, how it can help you in school, get jobs, and right wrongs. I shared how writing can help you figure things out (“How do I know what I think until I see what I say.”). But there’s even more. Writing can help us stay connected with other people, and it also can help us heal.

I’m offering this forum for you to share your thoughts, your hopes, fears, and dreams. What is your life like during this time? What’s the hardest part? What’s going well? What do you hate? What do you wish?

No requirements here. I invite you to share a word, a sentence, paragraph or more. Just press the Comment button and add your words. As always, I encourage you to read over your words before pressing Post Comment. Make sure they are what you want to say and how you want to communicate. You can add your age and/or your location if you’d like. You can also make comments about what others have written. Just press the Reply button.

**Note to adults: While this post is primarily targeted to kids, I invite you to add your words as well. What a great opportunity to model writing to the kids in your life!

Return to Ridgeview

My, how time flies! It seems like yesterday that I was making my first author visit ever to Ridgeview Elementary School in Springfield, Oregon. My first title, The Chewing Gum Book, had recently been published and the school librarian asked me to come and talk with students about getting ideas and developing them. That was 30 years ago!

This week, 27 books and hundreds of author visits later, I had a chance to return to Ridgeview to speak with students about writing. While the students’ faces were unfamiliar, the building had an old-home feel to it, and I paused to take in the library, where I had done my presentations so long ago. Technology used: slide projector and overhead projector.

The kids I spoke with this week could easily be the children of the kids I presented to back in 1990. Imagine that.

A lot has changed over 30 years, but a few things have not: the enthusiasm and engagement of the kids I get to work with, and the satisfaction I get in sharing my curiosity and passion for writing.

Ridgeview 5th graders

Thanks for the Thank Yous

You know what’s cool about thank you notes? They’re beneficial to all. They’re good for the young writer in that they encourage reflection (How was the experience? What did I learn?), enhance social skills, and provide a real-world opportunity to organize and communicate their thoughts.

Thank you notes are also good for the receiver. They let me know the time I spent with a class of kids was worthwhile. That’s a good feeling. I also learn a lot from reading the notes. I find out what sticks with the kids from my visit. What did they remember? What excited them? This feedback is very helpful as I plan future visits.

Thank you Bethlehem Township (NJ) fourth-graders.

Thank you notes = a win/win!

Wild About Wolves!

What a great pleasure meeting with the fourth graders at the Thomas Conley School in Asbury, New Jersey! These kids were enthusiastic learning and sharing information about one of our most amazing, and misunderstood, creatures: wolves. I can’t help but wonder what sticks with the students the most about our time together. For me, it was their curiosity and excitement.

Friends of the Wolf

Friends with a wolf? Who would dare?

Plenty of people would, and for good reasons: wolves are fascinating animals and they are important to our environment. For years, they were hunted to near extinction. Today, with the help of friends, their numbers are growing.

My latest book, Friends of the Wolf introduces young readers (ages 7-10) to the wonderful world of wolves. Readers discover wolves’ amazing physical characteristics, their long history of being one of the most maligned animals on the planet, and their road to recovery. A real-life sanctuary is spotlighted, and its everyday workings to preserve and protect wolves.

The journey of creating this book took longer than most I’ve done: seven years. It began with a visit to a wolf sanctuary in southern Oregon, where my interest in wolves was piqued and where I had my first experience closely observing people who work with these amazing animals. Their passion was contagious. And that was just the beginning for me.

Research followed, of course. Reading, reading, reading, and interviewing biologists and other experts. An essential part of the process was traveling to other sanctuaries, which took me to four other states: California, Washington, Idaho, and New Jersey. At those places I got to see firsthand the efforts people are making to assist wolves.

There are many children’s books written about wolves. Most of them cover the same basic information: where wolves live, what they eat, their family life. What the world does not need is another such book. So, I tried something different. I took a step beyond mere information and made a call to action, encouraging readers to be advocates for wolves and providing suggestions doing that.

Over centuries, humans have done a great disservice to the natural food chain as well as the environment by our global assaults on wolves. It will take the continued efforts of dedicated friends now, and especially in the future, to ensure that these amazing animals will survive.

To order:

See Books tab on this website

or

Barnes and Noble

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/friends-of-the-wolf-robert-young/1132101501?ean=9780974219622

or

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Friends-Wolf-Robert-Young/dp/0974219622/ref=sr_1_15?crid=2L77WW3I6NUQJ&keywords=friends+of+the+wolf+robert+young&qid=1568906967&sprefix=Friends+of+the+wolf%2Caps%2C228&sr=8-15

 

 

Lewis and Clark book reissued!

When is a book’s run done? That can be a very tough question, especially if the topic is classic and the information is not outdated. So it is with my book about the Lewis and Clark expedition.

I first published this book several years back. It was very popular and went through two printings. After all the books were sold, a small publisher picked it up and we upgraded it and reprinted. This past spring, after the last books of that printing were gone, I thought that would be end of the book’s life. And I was okay with that. It had been good run.

But then, something happened. I met with a university professor, who was running a summer institute on the L&C expedition, and shared the resources I had, including the book I had written. The professor was excited about the book and asked where it was available so she could share that information with her institute participants.

Uhhh. Ummm. The book was no longer available. Which got me thinking. Why couldn’t I reissue the book. The story is classic and the information was not outdated. So, I contacted a publisher that produces on-demand books and we made a deal. A week ago I got my first printed copy and it looks great!

Passage: A dog’s journey west with Lewis and Clark is an interactive activity book for young readers (aimed at 8-10 year-olds). This historically accurate book tells the story of the most famous expedition in American history through the eyes of Seaman, the 150-pound Newfoundland that accompanied the Corps of Discovery every step of the way. The format is a series of journal entries, and readers are encouraged to interact with the text by making predictions, asking questions, finding answers, and connecting the text to their own lives. Incomplete line illustrations allow readers to enhance their artistic skills.

 

Tell A Teacher

I met up with a former student the other day. She had traveled from one coast to the other to attend her son’s college graduation. I live nearby.

Tara was a bright kid. Curious. An enthusiastic learner. She was in my reading class 42 years ago. The fact that she even remembered me is amazing.

Back then I was in the early stages of my teaching life, trying hard to navigate an educational system that I wasn’t sure had a place for me. My memory of that time mainly focuses on my struggles.

When Tara shared her memories —novels that we read, engaging activities, outdoor adventures—I suddenly recalled them as well. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe I had made some kind of difference.

That’s what we all want, isn’t it? To make a difference in another person’s life. And it’s very gratifying to know you have. Thank you to Tara, and to the others who have shared their experiences with me over the years. It really means a lot.

Several years ago, on a trip to the east coast, I visited my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Domovich. I shouldn’t have been surprised at how old she looked given the number of years since I had been her student. She appeared to be having some serious physical challenges as well. Despite it all, she remembered me. I sat in her living room and shared memories of her class, and of her as my teacher. She beamed, and I floated. Within a year, she died.

If you ever had a teacher who made a difference for you, I encourage you to share that with them. It will mean a lot to them. And to you, too. I know from both sides.

Tara and I

 

Mrs. Domovich and I

 

What’s in a Name?

I carry curiosity with me wherever I go. It’s not heavy and it fits easily into my pocket, where I can take it out at a moment’s notice.

I often pull it out when visiting schools. There’s lots to wonder about when you’re at a school: the displays, the kids, the design of the building, and, of course, the school name. How did the name come about? Who named it? Is it named after a real person? Why?

Douglas Gardens Elementary is a school I visited recently. Hmmm…I wondered…Was there really a “Douglas” that the school was named for? Was it a first name, or last name? Was there really a “garden” there? What kind of garden was it?

Sharing curiosity at Douglas Gardens

There were so many questions, and so little time that I wasn’t able to get my questions answered. I’m hoping that some brave souls, willing to accept a challenge, will find out how the name came to be and share it.

Good luck in your search!

 

 

 

 

Gilham Editors

Gilham friends,

I had a great time visiting with you last week and enjoyed your comments, questions, and stories. Some of you took the opportunity to be editors (helpers) for my personal narrative draft. Now, all of you can!

Remember what good editors do: compliment, ask questions, and make suggestions. Take a look at the draft below and try out your editing skills. All you have to do is click the Comment button above and type away. I look forward to your feedback to help make my writing better.

 

My family moved into this neighborhood in 1985 the local school Gilham was surrounded by fields. It looked alot different then.

In a few years my son, Tyler, was ready for kindergarten. I took him on his first day. I’ll remember that day forever.

The school was alive with activity. Busses and cars streamed through the parking lot. Kids parents filled the sidewalks, voices buzzing with excitement. I took Tyler’s hand and walked him to his portable classroom.

When we got close he pulled me to the side and dropped to his knees. I followed him to the ground. “What’s the matter Tyler” I asked him. “I’m a little scared, he said his voice a whisper.

He looked over into my eyes. “Me too” I said.

Tyler got up, let go of my hand, walked past the teacher at the door, and in the classroom. He didn’t look back.

 

Goodbye Frank

Hall of Fame baseball player Frank Robinson died last week. I first saw him play in the late 50s at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. It was the first major league baseball game I ever attended. The Phillies played the Cincinnati Reds, Frank’s team. He played right field.

The magic of my first game—the lights, the green, green grass, the smell of hotdogs and popcorn—was topped by watching Frank play, his fluidity in the field, his power at the plate. By the end of the game, I was a Reds fan. Frank and his outfield teammate Vada Pinson were my new favorite players.

I followed the Reds for the next several years, loyal despite their mediocrity. Frank, however, was superb during that time. He won Rookie of the Year as well as the National; League’s Most Valuable Player. Surprisingly, though, the Reds traded Frank to the Baltimore Orioles after the 1965 season. My allegiance switched to the Orioles.

The following season, Frank got his revenge for being traded. He won both Triple Crown (best average, most home runs, most RBIs) and the Most Valuable Player in the American League. The Orioles won the World Series. Frank played with the Orioles for a few more years, then a few other ball clubs before becoming manager of the Cleveland Indians in 1975. He was the first black manager of a major league team.

Fast-forward twenty years to when I crossed paths with Frank Robinson. Researching a book about baseball, I visited the Orioles’ spring training facility in Florida. Despite the MLB strike by players, the preseason was going ahead with replacement players.

When I arrived at the training facility, I checked in at the small team office. Two men sat in the office, chatting amiably. One of them had a face made familiar by the countless baseball cards I had collected over the years. It was Frank Robinson. I introduced myself, and the man with Frank—the public relations director—recalled our correspondence and proceeded to issue me credential for the facility so I could interview the team staff.

After I left the office, I immediately had one of those “moments,” the ones where you say to yourself, “Should I reveal myself to Frank, tell him how I had followed his career, share that he had been one of my favorites?  In my briefcase, among my notepads and recorders, I even had a brand-new baseball. I decided I wouldn’t have another opportunity like this.

When I returned to the office, I addressed Frank, telling him how much I enjoyed watching him play. He smiled, and we talked a few minutes. And then I pulled out the ball. Talk stopped and his smile disappeared. In an instant I had become one more in the legion of people who wanted something from him. His dour expression and silence made it clear that he was tired of it. I didn’t blame him a bit.

Still, I knew this moment would never come again, so I asked him if he would please sign the ball for my son, Tyler. It’d be a present for his 16th birthday. I held my breath as Frank scribbled who-knows-what on the ball. When he handed the ball back, he looked past me. I thanked him, stuffed the ball back into my briefcase, and made for the door.

Outside, I walked awhile in the bright Florida sunshine. When I couldn’t stand it another second, I opened the briefcase and grabbed the baseball. On the sweet spot, in neatly crafted cursive, it read: “Tyler, Happy 16th birthday. Frank Robinson.