What an incredible evening we had at school with Mike Wohnoutka leading Family Reading Night! The darkened room was almost silent as he led the guests through slides about his career as an artist. From the drawing of himself being stung by bees to the portrait of his father reading the newspaper to his work on Susanna Leonard Hill's Can't Sleep Without Sheep, Mike showed how much of what he learned growing up shaped the illustrator he is today. Most captivating were his many sketches for Can't Sleep Without Sheep and the description of the process of taking one person's words and transforming them into a visual story. Audience members loved the humorous character Mike created to introduce the steps of his work, especially beginning sketching and sketch revisions! Watching Mike transform a list of characteristics suggested by the audience into a superhero mouse was amazing.
What I loved most about the evening was watching children interact with parents! When Mike asked for input or told of his own experiences, kids turned to parents to share ideas and similar stories. When the kids started creating a hero of their own to defend our school from an evil dragon, parents' and kids' heads were bowed together in concentration. There was such powerful engagement with the topic!
I love Family Reading Nights for so many reasons. I love the real-life connections with authors and illustrators. I love that families choose to return to school at night to write, read, draw, perform, and discuss. I love having our public librarian there for connection and assistance. I love the stories about the event in school the next day. I love whispering in awe with my teaching partner about what we learn and observe. We are blessed to host such wonderful gatherings!