Inside the Bryan Innovation Lab, third- and fourth-graders line up in rows, then plop down onto the floor, the paper-filled clipboards and pencils in their hands clattering against the tile. They’re excited to meet author-illustrator friends Angela Dominguez and Isabel Roxas, who have prepared a special presentation for the young readers. Ms. Dominguez and Ms. Roxas, authors of “Stella Diaz” and “The Adventures of Team Pom,” respectively, were invited to Steward by Lower School Librarian Carlee Cutchin to talk to students about the inspiration behind their careers.
With a colorful slideshow of photos playing behind them, Ms. Dominguez and Ms. Roxas chatted excitedly, tag-teaming as they shared details about their lives: where they grew up; what they love about reading, writing, and illustrating; and their diverse interests (everything from synchronized swimming to pigeons!). The ultimate storytellers, Ms. Dominguez and Ms. Roxas were engaging, funny, and personable, and the students were enthralled.
“Look around you,” said Ms. Dominguez, offering advice on creating effective story characters. “Maybe the person sitting by you is your next character!” The details are important, added Ms. Roxas: “When creating a character, ask yourself, What are they afraid of? What are their goals? Let your imagination run wild!” Both authors chimed in to share an important element of every good book-writing project: “Teamwork!” they exclaimed. “Collaboration!” This segued into a fun interactive project.
The authors asked students to offer suggestions for an impromptu story. Using a giant paper-lined easel, Ms. Roxas, holding a red marker, drew quickly as students called out suggestions for a book character and plotline. Soon, the students’ ideas sprang to life: A speckled giraffe! Named Grumble! Who had his cupcake stolen by a cat! Giggling, the students drew along with Ms. Roxas on their clipboards.
Like all Spartans, these third- and fourth-graders know that reading can transport them, inspire them, and spur creativity.
Phillip Hamilton ’32, an avid reader, said, “I liked how the authors had a sense of humor, like when Ms. Roxas pointed to a picture of a book on the slide presentation and said, ‘I like this book … and ALL books!’” Phillip added, “When I read a good book I want to read more … because it takes me to a different place in my imagination.”
Ms. Cutchin said that author visits add a valuable dimension to the joy of reading.
“When students meet authors, they connect with the stories they’ve read on a deeper level,” she said. “They learn that authors are real people — with lives that are both challenging and fulfilling — and they hear the ‘life stories’ that shaped the authors’ work. Visits such as this one are tremendously enriching for students … and Ms. Dominguez and Ms. Roxas were exceptionally engaging!”
Before the event, students had the opportunity to pre-order signed copies of the books from Richmond’s bbgb bookstore. “We are so grateful to make local connections such as the one with bbgb,” said Ms. Cutchin.