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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

9 THINGS I LOVED ABOUT IRA (A countdown to a reading explosion!)

9. Words, words, words
Being a logophile and lover of books since elementary school, I enjoy being around words and those who like words – readers, writers, critics, fans. And I get jazzed whenever I’m with a group of people who are as concerned and connected with literacy as the IRA crowd. Sitting at one of the convention cafes with a hot chocolate or walking through the exhibit hall, overhearing bytes of conversations about kids and reading and “reading assessment” and “instructional strategies” made me realize at once that I had found my people.

8. Sign Time
On the third day of the conference I had the opportunity to autograph books at the Red Brick Learning booth. Red Brick is the classroom division of Capstone Publishers, so it was a natural fit for me to sign there and meet with those teachers who actually use my books in the classroom. What a thrill to hear about kids getting excited about the Library of Doom, or one of my Superman stories, or even the book I wrote for Picture Window, If You Were A Palindrome. (I always wished I had one of those names that was a palindrome, like Bob or Otto!)

7. The Red Brick booth
The booth looked great! Colorful book covers, eye-popping posters hanging against the black backdrop, and cool videos playing on a monitor.

6. Jon Scieszka
Yes! I was able to meet him – the Ambassador of Books for Boys. He is one of my all-time heroes. A funny, humble, and creative guy who never stops inspiring people to read and to write. And I like his hairstylist. In fact, I think he and I have the same one.

5. The Food.
Just kidding. Although I did share a lunch outdoors with Joan Berge, the president of Capstone Fiction, on one of those glorious spring Minnesota afternoons. Azure sky, puffy clouds, bright sunshine, and a humidity-free 70 degrees. Like a day at the lake, right?

4. Standing Room Only
I co-presented a workshop on graphic novels in the classroom with Dr. Stephen Sargent from Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. Stephan is a brilliant professor of reading and literacy and was a great partner to work with (and had some excellent hand-outs, btw). The two of us had been told to expect between 25 and 30 participants. We had 72! The graphic wave continues to roll!
And I received great feedback on some of our Graphic Revolve retellings, like Swiss Family Robinson. It’s amazing how a even single illustration can provoke so much thought and delight and discussion!
3. Swag
Lots of free posters, banners, books, bookmarks, and giveaways. I had fun handing out our Stone Arch DC Superhero poster and the one on the Power of Reading. The graphic of the four Recon Academy teen heroes looks appropriately high-tech and tough.

2. Invisible Creatures
The one major element of the crowd that you couldn’t see, but definitely made their presence known each day – the kids! That’s why we were all there. To get kids reading better, reading more, and reading for pleasure. There was enough energy and creativity at the Minneapolis IRA conference to explode in a cloud of literacy that would cover the country. I think it’s begun.

1. Blast off!

--Michael Dahl
Editorial Director

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