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Children’s authors, educators get together to share ways to keep kids interested in reading

Christy Soulian Oak Forest flips through The New York Times Bestseller 'Duck Rabbit' by Amy Krouse   Tom Lichtenheld

Christy Soulian of Oak Forest flips through The New York Times Bestseller "Duck Rabbit" by Amy Krouse & Tom Lichtenheld during the 11th annual Anderson's Bookshop's Big Children's Author event at Abbington Distinctive Banquets in Glen Ellyn on Saturday, February 16, 2013. | Erik Anderson~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 18, 2013 7:09AM

The proverb says that if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Advocates of reading feel much the same way about getting kids hooked at an early age and thus becoming lifelong learners.

That might explain why hundreds of educators showed up in Glen Ellyn Saturday morning for a special event sponsored by Naperville’s Anderson’s Bookshop.

For the 11th year, Anderson’s offered its Children’s Literature Breakfast, an event that organizer and store owner Becky Anderson said has come to attract as many as 600 people to talk about and share ideas related to children’s books.

“This event includes picture books and reading materials for kids in elementary up through middle school,” Anderson said. “We have invited keynote speakers, but we also have 60 Illinois authors and illustrators who will shift around during the morning, meaning that every guest will sit with at least four of them. We think awareness about reading is important and we must catch kids at an early age, which studies again and again have shown hooks them for life.”

Special guest authors included Herman Parish, Marilyn Singer, Amy Kraus Rosenthal, Tom Lichtenheld, Blue Balliett, Tom Watson, Christopher Krovatin, and Nils Johnson-Shelton.

A special feature of the event this year was a 50th birthday party to celebrate the creation of famous children’s book protagonist Amelia Bedelia, first created by the late Peggy Parish, whose nephew Herman has now taken over the series. Herman said that since his aunt died in 1988 he has authored 27 Bedelia books and that “she is as literal as ever.”

“Kids still like the character and the problems she has with the content of the English language,” Herman said as he was setting up a video presentation. “The idioms we have in our language are confusing, and kids like to see grown-ups make mistakes. The key to making reading interesting is that it has to be fun.”

A number of Naperville residents and professionals who work in Naperville schools were on hand Saturday, all professing they had attended the Literature Breakfast many times.

“I’ve been to every one of these events, and feel that the content which features authors as well as illustrators makes for a quality presentation,” said Naperville resident Bonita Slovinski, who also works in District 203 as a librarian at Lincoln Junior High. “I always spend too much money at the book store and like having the contact with others where we can talk about books.”

Slovinski and others talked about the challenges of getting kids to read, given all the current technology and the time it takes away from reading. Teachers use libraries less, she said, as many now turn to using technology in their classrooms.

“It makes the librarian’s job even more important, because we have to find things kids will enjoy,” she said.

Naperville’s Jackie Plourde, who retired from Madison Junior High and now teaches librarian courses at National-Louis University, said the author-reader connection is powerful.

“Kids have come up to me and said there was writing in a book, which turned out to be the author’s signature,” she said. “Kids aren’t impressed with that, but when you can talk about meeting and talking with the actual author and that you met so-and-so, it’s very powerful and they are interested.”

John Schumacher also lives in Naperville but works as a librarian in Oak Brook. Schumacher said this was the fourth time he has attended the event and that he enjoys “communicating with peers in an intimate setting.”

“I go to things like the American Library Association event, but it’s so big,” he said. “This event gives you the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the authors and your peers. I always learn about new ways to hook young readers, plus it’s great to be able to put a face with some of the authors you’ve read.”

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