Archive for Kids

Walk Out…Then Write!

     When the students at Briggs Middle School in Springfield, Oregon walked out of class at ten o’clock this morning, I walked with them. I was at the school to do an author visit and speak to students about writing. It was near the end of my presentation when the walkout took place, and I was happy to participate. Some things are more important than writing.

     The Briggs students joined students from all cross the country in leaving their classrooms for seventeen minutes to honor and pay respect to the latest school shooting victims. I was impressed with how the walkout was handled—making an announcement that the students could choose to participate in the walkout or remain in their classrooms. Some chose to stay. Others left. Outside, some formed circles and held hands. Others stood in small groups. Most were silent. All showed reverence.

     The last time I walked out of a class was in the spring of 1970, when I was a freshman at the University of Missouri. When President Richard Nixon announced he was going to send troops into Cambodia, deepening the Vietnam War, protests were waged across the country. At my school, we walked out of classes in protest. When it looked like the protests might become violent, the school closed and we all went home. We were lucky; protesters at other schools, like Kent State and Jackson State, got shot by National Guard and police. Some died.

     What’s the point of walking out, some people wonder. As I drove home today, I listened to a talk show host belittling the students who took that action. “What a waste of time,” he said. “What are they learning by doing that?”

     They’re learning a lot. They’re learning how to organize. That’s how this country got started: organized protests. They’re learning how to make their voices heard, even in silence. And, most importantly, they’re learning to take action, to take a stand.

     We, as adults, have done little to address gun violence in this country. After each new massacre, we talk and pray and wish things were different. That’s not enough. Nothing will change until we change it. I believe more voices will help.

     I applaud the students at Briggs and at every school who took action today, and there were thousands who did. But now I invite every student to take the next step, and this involves writing. Write down your thoughts, your fears, your ideas, and include them in letters to people who make decisions about school safety and about the way guns are regulated in our country today. Send letters to your principal, your school board, your local representatives, state representatives, your Senators and Congressman.

    Your words matter. Change can happen. You can make a difference. Write on!

Letters, Letters, Letters

I just returned from a wonderful visit to Arizona, where I got to go face to beak with hummingbirds, walk the paths of 16th century explorers, and enjoy the wonders of the desert. Is there a book in there somewhere, who knows, but there’s lots of ideas.

Before leaving, I was the proud recipient of a packet of letters from an interested and excited couple of classes of fourth graders at Santiam Elementary School, which I will be visiting soon. I enjoyed reading every letter and am looking forward to the day we meet.

I appreciate the kind words about my books and especially the questions asked. Some of the answers can be found on my website, some I’ll answer below, and some I’ll answer during my presentation.

Here’s a few answers:

I have an older sister (Sherry), one son (Tyler), and one dog (Toby)

Toby on a kindergarten class visit

 

Tyler and I at the Gergeti Trinity Church in northern Georgia (near the Russian border)

 

I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I was in my 30s. First, I got several stories and plays published in magazines. My first book, The Chewing Gum Book, was published in 1989. I was 38 years old. Since then, I’ve had 26 more books published.

I did not illustrate any of my books, but some of my photographs appeared in my books. The publisher chooses the illustrator. And yes, they get paid.

Gum has been a life-long love for me, since the days I had to sneak it into school to chew it. I still chew if everyday (sugarless only!), and even collect it. The back cover of the Chomp! book shows a small part of my chewed gum collection.

Salem middle school students showing her stuff

Tried making my own gum. Not so good…

 

Favorites

Color: Green

Food: Nectarines, Cheese, Kale

Sports: Baseball

Activities, Hiking, sailing, ping-pong, biking

Music: Rock, Classical

Number: 9

Month: September

Place to live: Oregon

Place to visit: Machu Picchu, Uganda

Rafting the Nile River in Uganda (me in yellow helmet on left)

 

I just finished writing three different books about wolves. My agent is trying to find them a home at a publishing company. Several ideas are bubbling in my head about what to do next. Hmmm…we’ll have to wait and see.

Next project – the moment of decision

 

 

 

An International Touch

A recent visit from my son, Tyler, and his new bride, Milena, provided a local school with an international experience. Milena is from Colombia, Tyler recently worked in Saudi Arabia. Are these places, a world apart, alike in any way? Kids in Todd Grassman’s fourth grade class developed questions about everyday life (What do they eat? What’s their school schedule? etc.) and posed them to the visitors. We tracked responses on a Venn diagram.

What did we discover? Although there are many differences (climate, animals, language…) there are also many similarities between the countries ( soccer, X-box, pizza…). And then, to top it off, we compared the U.S. and found out that there are lots of similarities with all three of our countries.

Imagine that!

 

 

 

 

Returning To The Roots

What a great experience I had during my recent trip to the east coast. I returned to the school district where I began teaching and did an Author Experience with each of the fourth grade classes at the Thomas Conley School. Thomas Conley was once principal of the elementary school and was the man who hired me in 1974. He was a great guy to work with, and I had a lot of respect for him as an educator and a person.

The fourth graders I met with were curious and enthusiastic, the best kind of students (and writers).  Happy writing!

 

The Magic of Willagillespie!

Man, were these kids ready! They had read the book and knew why everyone should know about A.C. Gilbert. Not only was he America’s most famous toymaker, he was a professional magician, Olympic champion, and the “Man who saved Christmas.” What a guy! And what a class!! I hope they all find their own magic.

The Magic of A.C. Gilbert

A fun time working with Ms. Hicks’ fourth graders at Bohemia Elementary School in Cottage Grove, Oregon. They are A.C. Gilbert experts!

 

Guy Lee II

Another fun visit to Guy Lee Elementary School in Springfield, Oregon. Man, I like this place, and the kids, too!

We talked about the fabtastic A.C. Gilbert, inventor, toymaker, magician, Olympic champion…I could go on. As you know, I love questions, so here’s one for you G.L. fourth graders: What do you think the most important thing people should know about Mr. Gilbert? And, why do you think that? What’s your reason?

Also, if you have any questions about Mr. Gilbert, fire away. Click on the Comment box and write your questions there. I’ll do my best to answer them.

A.C. and Me

Asking Questions at Guy Lee

Visited my 4th grade friends in Mrs. Skoog’s class at Guy Lee Elementary today. We talked about writing and questions. Hey, I have one for you: Who was Guy Lee, and why was your school named after him? I want to know!

To see a photo of this cool class, follow the link below:

http://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipO9-s4Fetqm5SwyDvoYu6T09bUBuQ8Gx9oUXU4w

 

Game Day Review

Taylor Worley, Youth Services Librarian at the Springfield (OR) Public Library recently reviewed Game Day with the Oregon Ducks. Here’s what she had to say about the book:

“Game Day with the Oregon Ducks” is a University of Oregon fan’s dream: a sneak peek into the lives of the players, coaches, staff, and volunteers that make Autzen Stadium come to life on game day. Author Robert Young presents the story from dawn to dusk, beginning with the clearing of Oregon’s morning fog and ending with the last recycling and locking of the gates. Photographer Jack Liu provides exceptional photographs from both well-known parts of the stadium and those secret rooms the public usually doesn’t see. A clean layout, balanced composition, and friendly narrative make this a good choice for children of many ages; even a precocious preschooler may sit to learn about why The Duck does push-ups so often! Fun bonus facts and trivia pepper the pages and compliment the extensive photography. While the appeal of such a title will be likely be limited to Duck’s fans, it is well worthy of their attention. “Game Day” provides an answer for a much-needed resource in local schools and libraries about this favorite team, while more seasoned fans will appreciate the nostalgia during off-season. Die-hard fans and budding enthusiasts will love this fun, informative, and endearing look into game day at Autzen Stadium. Go Ducks!

What’s More Interesting?

Okay, what’s more interesting: art made from chewing gum or a classic building toy?

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That’s what these fourth graders were considering (and giving up their recesses!).

Fun times in Mr. Grassman’s class. Enjoy your Explorations!