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Visiting author. program utilizes childrens book to build community
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xJefferson Academy third-grader Riley Carr, 8, listens to children’s author Laurie Myers talk Thursday about her inspiration for writing books during a visit to the school. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

JEFFERSON — Although many children could probably think of a million things to do instead of reading a book, Cassi McCormack enjoyed every minute of reading "My Dog, My Hero."

"I loved it," said Cassi, an 8-year-old Jefferson Academy student. "I think it’s really nice that the dogs saved people and other dogs. Plus, I love dogs, so it was fun reading the book."

The students at the academy have been reading the book as a part of the school’s One School, One Book program.

"One School, One Book helps build a sense of community within our school. By having all students and staff members reading the same book at the same time, it gives everyone something to share with each other," said Marion Stem, the academy’s media specialist.

"Connections to the stories are made and students engage in conversations with their peers as well as adults. Being a book of eight short stories about heroic dogs, ‘My Dog My Hero’ gave us connections which were easily shared."

As a part of the program, the entire school also participated in various activities. On Thursday, the students had an extra special activity: a visit from Laurie Myers, one of the book’s authors.

"I was so happy when I found out she was coming," said Latosha Gresham, a third-grader. "I loved the book, especially the story about Old Dog. He saved 26 people; that’s a lot, but I think I could do it."

During her visit, Myers spoke to the students about the process of writing a book. She explained everything from how her work goes from being a manuscript to an item available for purchase.

"I like to visit schools and talk to students about writing because I want them to see that authors are real-life people. I want them to see that the process is attainable," Myers said after her presentation.

"I also encourage them to write. Writing is an important skill that can be useful in many areas of life."

Myers has written many "realistic fiction" books for children, including "Surviving Brick Johnson" and "Garage Sale Fever."

"Realistic fiction means that it didn’t necessarily happen, but it could," Myers told the students.

Although Myers has written several solo works, she also has written several pieces with fellow children’s authors Betsy Byars, her mother, and Betsy Duffey, her sister.

"Our mom has been writing for more than 60 years. She’s won a Newberry Medal for her book, ‘The Summer of the Swan,’" Myers said. "Betsy and I grew up watching our mom write. We watched her write and re-write, and re-write some of her manuscripts, so we knew how much hard work being an author could be."

After working in different career fields, both Myers and Duffey decided to follow in their mother’s footsteps when they were both in their 30s. "My Dog, My Hero" gave the family of writers their first opportunity to work together on a single book.

"We always thought it would be fun to write together, but it’s hard having a single novel with three authors so we had to come up with the right idea," Myers said. "‘My Dog, My Hero’ was perfect because each chapter is a different point of view."

Most successful authors would rather keep their key to success to themselves, but not Myers — she gladly gave away her secret.

"There’s only one thing you have to do to be a writer," she told the students. "The only thing you have to do to be a writer is to write. The more you do it, the better you get. And read; reading and writing go hand in hand."

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