Author visits build love of literacy through inspiration, encouragement

Author Barney Saltzberg with Visual Art Specialist Rebecca Stewart

Author Barney Saltzberg with Visual Art Specialist Rebecca Stewart

Whether you’re five, 15, or 55 years old, it can still be a thrilling experience to meet someone who actually created a book you enjoyed. If it makes a big enough impression, the experience can even make you a reader for life.

That’s why a number of HISD schools regularly invite popular authors to visit their campuses as part of the district’s literacy initiatives, such as Harvard ES, Patterson and Red elementaries, and Burbank Middle School.

Barney Saltzberg was the latest writer/illustrator to bring inspiration and encouragement to students. He came to Memorial Elementary School on Feb. 13.

“His visit was awesome,” said Visual Art Specialist Rebecca Stewart. “He spoke about not being a very good student. He said he was terrible at spelling. No one—not even his parents—was very optimistic that he would ever do anything significant, because he had such a hard time in school. But he loved to draw, so he drew all the time. When he went to art school, he still didn’t think he was very good, but a teacher looked at his drawing one day and said, ‘You need to write a book with that character.’ So he did. And the little boy who had such a hard time at spelling is now a best-selling author with more than a million books in print.”

Stewart says the book she uses most in her classroom just happens to be Saltzberg’s favorite. “It is called, ‘Beautiful Oops!’ and it’s about taking mistakes and creating something beautiful from them,” she said. “His best words of encouragement were to ‘never give up.’”

“There are all kinds of ways to be smart,” added Saltzberg. “Just look at me, the boy who couldn’t spell!”

Saltzberg’s visit was graciously coordinated by Lauren Taylor, a teacher at the Kincaid School and a friend of Stewart.

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