A Vibrant Author Visit Partnership: Giffen Memorial Elementary School & First Presbyterian Church of Albany

00-Giffen Author DAy - ListeningtoRoseKentFor years, various writing projects brought me to the New York State Museum on Madison Avenue in Albany, New York. Not once had I taken a left-hand turn onto Pearl Street on my way up the hill to the library. If I had, I would have bumped smack into Giffen Memorial Elementary School, a Title 1 school that is the largest in the city.  Even still, from the outside, I wouldn’t have known Giffen’s juicy surprise: that it hosts a vibrant annual author visit program through a community partnership initiated by the First Presbyterian Church of Albany, New York.

I found out about this program by accident when Debra Fagans, Chairperson of Author/Illustrator Day, contacted me via email, asking if I’d be willing to promote the event scheduled for April 2015. I said I’d not only promote it, but that I’d love to be a part of it. I was delighted to be included with Katherine Paterson, James Earl Ransome and Lesa Cline-Ransome as a visiting author at their third annual event.

Bottom line: I traveled to Albany, had a blast, and was really impressed with this program. Why?

1. When members of the First Presbyterian Church of Albany saw a need to promote literacy and the love of reading among students in the largest Title 1 school in Albany, NY, they took action to fill that need.
2. The school has embraced the program, and participation continues to grow.
3. This program puts books into the hands of students, promotes book ownership and fosters connections with book creators.
4. This is a program that could be easily replicated in other communities. (For an interview with Debra Fagans that details program specifics, click here.)

Authors and illustrators who have participated in the past included:  Sandra and Myles Pinkney, Joseph Bruhac, James Preller, Rose Kent, Matthew McElligott, Bruce Hiscock, Dan Mahoney, Coleen Murtagh Paratore, and Elizabeth Zunon.

Many thanks to my gracious, energetic hosts and all the volunteers at Giffen who made this such an enjoyable experience.  Now for some photos . . .

My hosts, Debbie & Eric Fagans, gave me a tour of the Giffen Elementary School’s neighborhood.

On the day before Author/Illustrator Day, my hosts, Debbie & Eric Fagans, gave me a tour of the Giffen Elementary School’s neighborhood.

 

 A sign outside the school was one of the ways the upcoming event was promoted to the community.

This sign posted outside the school was one of the ways the upcoming event was promoted to the community.

 

 While enjoying a hearty breakfast at the South Peal Street Coffee Shop & Restaurant, the Fagans filled me in on how the Author/Illustrator program came to be.

While enjoying a hearty breakfast at the South Peal Street Coffee Shop & Restaurant, the Fagans filled me in on how the Author/Illustrator program came to be.

 

 The community outreach of the 252-year-old First Presbyterian Church of Albany is wide-reaching. (Notice the extraordinary Tiffany windows. Inspirational!)

The community outreach of the First Presbyterian Church of Albany, established in 1763, is wide-reaching. (Notice the extraordinary Tiffany windows. Inspirational!)

 

 I loved that spring was beginning to flower after a long winter.

I loved that spring was beginning to flower after a long winter.

 

 On the day of the event, everything was color and excitement. Kids signed in at the door. Refreshments beckoned.

On the day of the event, everything was color and excitement. Kids signed in at the door. Refreshments beckoned.

 

An energetic choral performance by students got us stomping and clapping.

An energetic choral performance by students got us stomping and clapping.

 

The Giffen Gator attracted fans.

The Giffen Gator attracted fans.

 

In tribute to my book, The Kite That Bridged Two Nations, kite art flew across walls.

In tribute to my book, The Kite That Bridged Two Nations, kite art flew across walls.

 

I loved that student art and writing filled the halls.

Student art and writing filled the halls.

 

Enthusiastic kids and parents traveled from room to room, meeting the visiting authors.

Enthusiastic kids and parents traveled from room to room, meeting the visiting authors.

 

Two students as Katie Sue and Mean Jean enjoy a cupcake after their performance of The Recess Queen.

Two students as Katie Sue and Mean Jean enjoy a cupcake after their performance of The Recess Queen.

 

Teachers Heather Carson, Peg Delgado and Shannon Smith greeted kids at the entrance to the book signing room, one of the busiest rooms in the school that day!

Teachers Heather Carson, Peg Delgado and Shannon Smith greeted kids at the entrance to the book signing room, one of the busiest rooms in the school that day!

 

 I was excited to meet Lesa Cline-Ransome and James Earl Ransome. Their books are fabulous!

I was excited to meet Lesa Cline-Ransome and James Earl Ransome. Their books are fabulous!

 

After a very happy and successful day, I was invited to join this terrific crew of the First Presbyterian Church of Albany for dinner -- and had a chance to talk with one of my all-time favorite authors, Katherine Paterson. Pictured: (back) Rev. Dr. Miriam Lawrence Leupold, Debbie & Eric Fagans. (front) Alexis O’Neill, Katherine Paterson, Freda Gardner, Rev. Dr. Glenn Leupold.

After a very happy and successful day, I was invited to join this terrific crew of the First Presbyterian Church of Albany for dinner — and had a chance to talk with one of my all-time favorite authors, Katherine Paterson. Pictured: (back) Rev. Dr. Miriam Lawrence Leupold, Debbie & Eric Fagans. (front) Alexis O’Neill, Katherine Paterson, Freda Gardner, Rev. Dr. Glenn Leupold.

 

Do know of a successful author / illustrator visit community partnership program? Let me know. I’d love to profile it here.

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2 Comments on “A Vibrant Author Visit Partnership: Giffen Memorial Elementary School & First Presbyterian Church of Albany”

  • Cool! Wow, it’s amazing what a lot of hard work goes into a one-day event, isn’t it? Sounds like an awesome day!

  • The volunteeers were absolutely amazing! I don’t think that the school would have been able to do this on their own. I’d love to see more creative partnerships between schools and community groups like this across the country.

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