HANOVER PARK – Although it may have been warm outside, students from Elsie Johnson Elementary School in Hanover Park were having plenty of fun kicking off their school week in the great indoors April 21 with a visit from a special guest.
The writer behind such literary treats for kids as "Creepy Carrots!" and "Carnivores," New York Times-bestselling author and Caldecott Winner Aaron Reynolds filled the school's library with laughter during two presentations to students.
The visit was the work of Elsie Johnson teachers Cyndi Chapman and Liz Kimes, who met Reynolds at a children’s literature breakfast hosted by Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville and knew they had to invite him to their school.
“We were both so excited afterwards, we were like, ‘This guy is hilarious. We need to have him at our school,’ ” Kimes said.
Through the support of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association, the visit became possible.
During an afternoon presentation to third- through fifth-graders, students learned about Reynolds as he answered some of the questions he’s most frequently asked when he visits schools. They also engaged in friendly competition as the author quizzed them on his presentation.
Reynolds visited with students in kindergarten through second grade earlier in the day.
Chapman and Kimes said the day went well, and students seemed to agree.
Fourth-graders Olivia Walsh, 9, and Jacob Stratz, 9, both of Hanover Park, have read many of Reynolds’ books, and after meeting him, they’re ready to read the rest.
“The books are interesting, and they’re really good for younger kids to read,” Jacob said.
Olivia and Jacob, along with the rest of the student body, received one of Reynolds’ books and had it signed by him during his visit.
Olivia’s favorite part of Reynolds’ presentation was a special message he shared with the students.
“He talked about how you have to don’t give up and keep trying,” Olivia said.
Visits like this are important to offer to students because they inspire them to read and write, Kimes said.
“You want to instill the whole idea of reading,” Chapman said. “A lot of kids don’t have their own books at home. So for them to be able to take home a book, a lot of the kids are like, ‘We get to keep this?’ ”
The teachers’ hope is to continue to host similar author visits, and PTA President Karen Ostryzniuk said the organization would be interested in sponsoring more.
“Anything we can do to encourage children to read,” she said. “Reading is so important.”
Just as students and staff enjoyed their time with the funny children’s author, Reynolds had only appreciative words for his audience at the end of his final presentation of the day.
“I have had so much fun, and I know that it is hot as anything in here, and yet you guys stuck it out with the best of them,” Reynolds said.
Visit Aaron Reynolds' website at www.aaron-reynolds.com.