Aside from the fact that alligators live in her neighborhood just outside of Houston, and that her youngest daughter has a favorite alligator (the stuffed kind), Roberta Baird understands all the right things when it comes to illustrating The Swamp Where Gator Hides.
Roberta understands kids: she was a Montessori teacher for grades one through three, as well as being the mother of four children. . .
– by Marianne Berkes
Twenty-five years ago I moved to Florida and became fascinated with frogs and their cacophony of sounds from a pond in the back of our home. In my first book, Marsh Music, published in 2000, I turned those night songs into a story about frogs performing a concert. At the end of the book, I added two glossaries, one of the cast (12 different frog species) and one for musical terms. I was thrilled when the Booklist review called it “an entertaining way to teach children about both nature and music.”
My second book, my first published by Dawn Publications in 2002, was Seashells by the Seashore, about a young girl who combs the beach collecting specific shells for her grandmother’s birthday. In it I alluded to the importance of conservation and living in harmony with nature, which of course, made it a “Dawn” book. A laminated tear-out identification sheet was included in the paperback so budding young naturalists could take it with them for a day of discovery at the beach. And of course, in the book is a glossary of the different shells.
My purpose for writing those books was that after reading them, kids (and adults) would feel the moist air outside after a rain and really listen to the sounds of frogs. Or they would go to a beach with sand between their toes, discovering, touching and feeling the amazing works of art the mollusks that live in shells create.
Those two books, and the fifteen that followed, identify me as an author who combines fact with fiction–”creative non-fiction.” What is a child’s perception of learning? I believe most children learn by doing
Tell me and I forget
Show me and I remember
Involve me and I understand.
When I write my “informational picture books” as they are now called, I determine how I can get kids inside the book. How can it be interactive? In 2004, I used the age-old song “Over in the Meadow” to which I put a different twist and wrote Over in the Ocean, in a Coral Reef. Kids sang the melody as they were learning to read. Because it rhymed and had a meter, it became easy for them to pick up on the lyrics. They were memorizing the book through repetition as fundamental skills were being learned. You can even listen to me singing it!
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