Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. We loved your book ‘How I Read’ and hope that it inspires a generation of new and passionate readers.
So, firstly – when did you first come up with the idea for this book?
I came up with the goal and the concept to write How I Read about five years ago while I was the Education Director for Children Across America. It was shortly after I stumbled upon and read the research article “The Early Catastrophe” by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, which informed me that the Children Book Club program that I designed for early readers could not directly lead to resolving our issue with literacy. . The root of our literacy issue relates to the quality of and quantity of “word experiences” from ages 1 through 4. The main objective of the How I “verb” series is designed to guide great discussions between the pre reader and reader, as these discussions develop language skills which children rely on when they learn the phonetic skill of reading.
You have lots of experience and knowledge surrounding children reading, how did this help form the narrative for ‘How I Read’.
May I first say that I do not have a lot of experience with early literacy, but I definitely have some first hand experience as well as some research focused on early literacy. Philosophically thinking, I strongly believe that “how” we approach the activity of reading is extremely important and it can be learned at an early age. It is no secret that children are constantly observing and mimicking the adults they hang with so let’s model active reading techniques which makes the activity come alive.
What was your writing process like?
It was like making quiche, but instead of explaining this metaphor, I am going to leave that to our readers imaginations. The process of designing, developing and writing How I Read was the implementation of academic and professional experience knowledge about marketing, education, parenting and `blazing new paths” (less dramatic i could write leading). In order to execute the writing of How I Read, I pretended to sit down at a table with a group of pre readers, ask them questions like “how do you read, when and where do you read, then I jotted down some plausible answers and finally I began to write the text. For entertainment sake I added some rhymes but I did not want it to be a perfectly smooth sailing rhyming book as I believe that style would less likely lead to great discussions. Over all my writing process was a quest to balance the writing rhythm with the volume of opportunity for the pre reader and reader to pause for language skill development discussions. As a parent, it was these discussions that provided me with my most fond memories of reading to my children.
How closely did you work with the illustrator?
Kate and I met through our mutual friend Renata. Kate is a more accomplished artist than me an author and therefore, I highly respected Kate’s viewpoint from the beginning. She clearly understood and embraced the concept to integrate a multicultural message throughout the book. We were able to provide each other with honest feedback and direction. Excuse the pun, but there were several times that we were on the same page. Other times her concepts simply wowed me, and a couple of times Kate asked for some inspiration, which I was happy to furnish. The bottom line is that we are proud of the results and we are preparing to wow the public with the publications of How I Eat and How I Play.
Have you got any other books coming up?
Conceptually, we have filled a bookshelf! How I Eat and How I Play are written and edited. I am about to begin the process of final editing and book mapping. This time around the book mapping process will be more of a collaborative effort between Kate and I.
Where you a big reader as a kid? What was your all time favourite story growing up?
I was not a big reader. All summer long I had to listen to my mother telling me that I had to read and so I chose to read the sports pages of the newspaper and most of the time was spent I was figuring out the statistics. The objective of the literacy program that I designed as the education director for CAA was for kids to find a style, develop a method and or discover a genre that makes reading an activity versus a chore.
As a young reader, I read Come Over to My House by Theo LeSlieg many times. In fact, I still have possession of that book. This could explain my love of culture and my determination of integrating a multicultural message within my book series.
If you were going to be stuck on a desert island for the rest of your life and you can only take three books with you, what would they be?
Before you read my selections, understand that I am quite the pragmatist and then think of the sign on your wall that reads, “Live, Love and Laughter.” :#1 Scouting Guide to Survival by Wayne Fears, #2 Mythology: Norse Mythology, Greek Gods, Greek Mythology, Egyptian Gods and Ancient Egyptian Mythology by Patrick Auerbach (can you think of a better place to read this genre, I know I can’t 🙂 and #3 Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah.
To find out more about Jeff, you can check out his website here.