This year's Amber Brown Grant recipient was First Place School in Seattle. SCBWI's Director of Operations Cee Gee Addision along with SCBWI TEAM BLOG member and media escort Jaime Temairik accompanied author George Shannon as he interacted with students ranging from pre-school through 6th grade. "I spent the morning at First Place with Gee Cee and George," Jaime says. "I believe SCBWI/children's book people never underestimate the resilient spirit of kids or their capacity to adapt, but it was a humbling experience knowing these kids have been through more hardships than many adults and yet are still smiling and full of energy for their day."
And, Jaime says, the kids and adults at First Place loved George Shannon. "His tales and prompts for them to write their own stories were such a gift. And what greater gift could Paula Danziger via SCBWI pass on--providing such deserving kids with wonderful books to keep them company and provide them joy for years to come."
Melissa Collett of First Place, Jaime Temairik, author
George Shannon, and SCBWI's Gee Cee Addison
Here Cee Gee, in a guest post, shares her full report on their day at First Place School.
Friday, May 14th, was an amazing day for me. I made my way to Seattle’s First Place School, met with Melissa Collett, who I had been working with coordinating the event, and, to my surprise the author, George Shannon, was there waiting for me with a bright smile on his face. It was meant to be, because the weather in Seattle that weekend was beyond superb--sunny, warm and not a cloud in the sky.
First Place School is not publicly funded school, yet it's a place for children to go who are in transition and don’t have the luxury of certain things that other children in public schools have--and when I say luxury, I am speaking of clothes, shoes, jackets, the necessary tools to keep up their hygiene. Most to all of the children who attend First Place are in transition, meaning in between housing, parents in a struggle trying to find work so they can find permanent residence, etc. This school prepares them for what's to come when they get placed in permanent living situations with their families.
Our first hour was spent with the pre-school/kindergarten class. They pranced into the classroom, some wearing tutus and fairy princess outfits, with whispers of “Is that the author who is going to read to us?” You could hear the excitement in their little voices and see the smiles on their little faces. George came in, sat down and got down to business--the business of making the children dream and think what if! They participated in his wonderful games, poems and when he would pull out his next book, a child would yell out with joy, “We have that book!”
George Shannon poses with two students and one of his
books during his Amber Brown Fund-ed school visit.
It was a wonderful hour filled with storytelling and make believe--all the things that little one's dreams are made of. You could feel that the children were so happy to see someone come into their comfort zone and spend time with them and have the focus be on what they love…reading.
As the morning went on, George's audience got a bit more challenging--next was the 1st-3rd graders. You can imagine the energy level would be high with this group, but he was ready. We moved locations to their wonderful and surprisingly full library. They sat him in front of a great big picture window, children sitting in front of him, ready to listen. He reached into his bag of tricks, only to pull out a handful of stories and tricks to make the older children excited with giggles and plenty of hand raising to volunteer their services as his handy dandy assistant.
With winning the Amber Brown Grant, in addition to arranging a visit from a children’s book author for the school, the SCBWI helps the school throw a little party for the students, teachers and staff. So for First Place School we decided to have a pizza party for the children. You don’t have to be a genius to know what happens when you mix pizza and kids with a splash of Capri Sun--you get happy, happy kids.
The teachers were full of excitement too with the opportunity to enjoy some yummy pepperoni pizza and pop that straw into the Capri Sun pouch like they did when they were kids. It was wonderful to have time to sit down with the children, after having time to watch them participate. You got the questions and the stares: Who are you? What’s your name? How old are you? Are you a writer? What’s your favorite color? So many kids, so many questions, and definitely not enough answers to satisfy their wild curiosity!
George Shanon reading to kids in the
sunny First Place School library.
sunny First Place School library.
Last but not least were the 4th-6th graders. The teachers thought it would make more sense to do more question and answer with the older kids. George, being so skilled with dealing with the children, knew exactly how to get their focus. Getting on their level and opening up about his childhood made the older kids feel comfortable with him, and before you knew it the questions came rolling in: Do you like writing stories? How old were you when you wrote your first story? How do you come up with the ideas for your stories? Question after question with excitement and a glimmer in their eyes. The children were giving him ideas for stories before the end of the day.
When the day was over, I knew my life would be forever changed. I am so blessed and grateful to work for such a great organization. The Amber Brown Grant is our opportunity to give these children something to look forward to when they go to school; books to fill their libraries; a day full of dreams, fairy tales and make believe; a chance to say I want to be a writer when I grow up!
I can’t wait to report on our next winner for 2010.