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West Jordan Journal

Kids connect over ‘National Picture Book Month’

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● By Jana Klopsch

Kids gather to listen to author Jean Reagan at "Picture Book Party." (Kaylee Smedley/City Journals)

By Kaylee Smedley | [email protected]

On Monday, Nov. 13, the Viridian library hosted its very first “Picture Book Party,” in honor of November’s status as “National Picture Book Month.” 

The party featured local children’s author Jean Reagan. At the event, kids were encouraged to read, write and connect with others through a variety of activities. Families from all over gathered for this special event. The “Picture Book Party” was kick-started by an engaging demonstration from author Jean Reagan, and it was followed by various book-inspired activities. Reagan is the author of the best-selling “How To” picture book series, including Beehive Book Award-winning “How to Babysit Your Grandma.”

“We wanted to do something to celebrate ‘National Picture Book Month,’ and so we planned this picture book party. I knew Jean, so I got in contact with her about this idea. And each of the activities going on during this event are based on activities found in Jean’s books,” explained one of the librarians over the event.

Kids and their parents first were able to hear some storytelling featuring one of Reagan’s “How To” books, plus some insight on her outstanding writing career. Reagan said that a good portion of the inspiration for her books came from her own difficulties in learning to read while growing up.

 “I mean, I struggled and struggled, and I always tell school kids that I looked around, and everybody else was reading,” Reagan said. “And I tell kids, if you’re frustrated because you’re struggling, keep trying. Maybe you’ll get to write books for kids one day.”

She went on to explain that one of her greatest hopes with this series is to provide books that are accessible to all kids. That way, kids who may be struggling can still have something fun that they can read with someone.

Jean Reagan’s initial trouble with reading was not her only challenge in this literary journey. She opened up a Q&A session, where she answered questions from both kids and parents about her writing career. Reagan shared some experiences, specifically about the setbacks she faced in the process.

She compared these setbacks to the feeling kids get after finishing a homework assignment or cleaning their rooms and then having a teacher or parent inform them that they weren’t actually successful in the task. Reagan faced a fair amount of failure before getting her first book published. Rather than getting down about it, Reagan explained that during times of rejection, she gives herself a moment to feel grumpy and then goes back to work.

Reagan brought up how another important factor in writing these children’s books is trying to help kids create actual, human connection with each other. These days, most people (even kids) spend a large amount of time on their phones or other devices, rather than with one another.

“The thing about picture books is that generally you’re reading, like an adult with a child, or an older child and a young child,” Reagan said. “And in this day and age, to have that slow, human connection, as opposed to being ‘plugged in,’ that is really valuable.” 

She continued to explain how, when kids read picture books, they naturally get to respond to what they see and what they hear. It inspires communication. At that point, you have an interaction.

Reagan’s wise words were followed by an exciting balloon drop, after which kids enjoyed a variety of activities based off of the “How To” books. Families could read beneath decorative tents, dress up for a photo booth, enjoy an ice cream treat, make party hats, sing along with live music and even create their own picture books. They also had the opportunity to have their book copies signed by Reagan.

The initial outcomes planned for this event were described by Viridian library as “encouraging kids to TALK, SING, READ, WRITE, PLAY -- and PARTY!” and that was definitely accomplished. More than that, however, kids learned the importance of never giving up and seeking to connect with one another.