The New Year has brought me exciting new opportunities and my very first school visit as a children’s book author…a dream come true. On January 10th, I visited Varennes Elementary in Anderson, SC and it was a day to remember.
On early December, the school’s Reading Coach, Ms. Meyer, contacted me through my website and invited me to come talk to the students. Of course I said YES! 🎉
I was asked to prepare a presentation for about 120 3rd grade students, with whom I’d be reading aloud Santiago’s Dinosaurios and also discussing what inspired the story. Ms. Meyer also wanted me to talk with the 4th and 5th graders (around 250 students), although with them I wouldn’t read the book; instead, I’d share about my publication journey.
I must admit I was a little bit nervous before the event. Although I was a high school teacher for 7 years, I hadn’t addressed that many students at once. I prepared my presentations and I was lucky that Ms. Udayana Lugo, the book’s illustrator, helped me out with some cool videos of her illustration process and dinosaur images for my slides.
On the day of the visit, my husband came with me. It’s been very special to be able to share with him these moments. I’m so grateful that he has had the chance to be there for me. When we arrived at Varennes we met Ms. Meyer and the wonderful staff who helped us set up the microphone and the computer in the gym. I was also introduced to the Principal and Vice Principal. Everyone was very warm and welcoming, which I appreciated very much. Since I had time before the presentation, I was able to sign the books the school purchased for every teacher 😃.
My first 30 minute session was with the 3rd graders. It went by really fast and the children were very kind, respectful and quiet. My favorite thing about our time, were the questions the kids asked. We had about 10 minutes for questions and I was surprised and entertained with the things they wanted to know. Some children asked if I had made my crochet dinosaurs (which I didn’t), others wanted to know what was my favorite dinosaur (Stegosaurus and Triceratops). They also asked if I’d write a story about a jungle or an astronaut (you never know, right?) and they were very interested in knowing if I would write another book about Santiago (which I don’t know, but I was able to tell them about my 2024 picture book release “Abuelita’s Gift”.)
I was really happy with the participation of the children and the way in which they felt comfortable to ask me questions. I also liked looking at their faces while I read the book 🦖 At the end of the session, each teacher was gifted with a signed copy of Santiago’s Dinosaurios, a nice surprise prepared by the Principal.
Afterwards, the 4th and 5th graders entered the gym. With them, the beginning of the presentation was the same as with 3rd grade. I told them about the themes in the book and the story behind Santiago’s story; but then I shared with them how my book was acquired by Albert Whitman & Company, how was it like to work with and editor and the process with the illustrator. It could tell the children were interested, as were their teachers. This group of students, although bigger, was also very respectful and kind. With them I was able to share photos of past author events and I was able to read the first 3 pages of the book.
At the end, there were some minutes for questions. They wanted to know what was my favorite part of the book (which is sharing from my experience -my son’s- in order to help children like Santiago feel seen), what was the hardest part to write (figuring out which dinos to use for the changing sizes). They also asked about my favorite dinosaurs and the research I had to do for the book. I was really impressed with how engaged they were, there was no awkward silence because they kept the interesting questions coming. I loved it! 🦕 At the end of the session, the teachers received their signed books and the visit came to an end.
Later that day I was tagged in a social media post by Varennes Elementary, which as you can imagine made me smile. 😀
I feel really lucky for being able to share Santiago’s story with children. We never know if among them there are kids, who like Santiago, are struggling and need to listen to its message. I’m very grateful for having had such a positive experience with school visits. I can’t wait to see what other schools, students and teachers I’ll get to meet in this author’s adventure. Thanks for reading!
Cover photo by Cup of Couple.