Institute gives writing insight

Published 12:41 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Instructors from the Heart of Virginia were among more than 100 teachers and librarians across the commonwealth who took part in a literacy promotion program at Longwood University on Thursday and Friday.

The 14th annual Longwood University Summer Literacy Institute featured children’s book authors and instructors who explored ways to encourage literacy and face issues that can arise from area school systems and children’s experiences with reading.

The two-day program had 22 workshops and four concurrent sessions, where approximately 120 participants got to discuss their own school systems and collaborate on ways to promote literacy.

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Coordinator of School Librarianship Dr. Audrey Church said the event provided “knowledge of authors and their works, new ideas and strategies for teaching in their classrooms and libraries (and) two days of professional networking with colleagues.”

Among the workshop presenters were joint presenters and associate professors of theatre, art and graphic design Ronda Scarrow and Bruce Speas, who are residents of Phenix and Cumberland, respectively. They encouraged teachers to present Shakespeare to middle and high school students.

The event’s featured speakers were author Candace Fleming and illustrator Eric Rohmann.

Fleming has written several nonfiction and picture books, and she received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature for “The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia.”

Rohmann’s illustrated work has won the Caldecott Medal, considered one of the highest awards for illustrated books.

One of Fleming and Rohmann’s collaborated children’s books, “Giant Squid,” was recognized by the American Library Association as a Notable Book.

The author and illustrator discussed the collaboration process and how, through both nonfiction and children’s books, they have recognized the impact of their work on readers young and old.

Brent Roberts, dean of the library at Longwood, said the event provided an interesting look into authors’ writing processes.

“The institute has been fascinating to get the behind-the-scenes look at how writers operate,” Brent said.

Lynde Roberts, who recently took a position with Cumberland County Public Schools’ library program, said that having attended literacy events in Farmville in past years, she could use her enthusiasm and knowledge to inspire children to view books — and writers — differently.

“Having these stories of how writers operate will help me in that I can help kids to learn the books and identify authors as people,” Lynde said.