Author Sharon Draper Inspires Students to Make A Difference
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or the author either. That authors don’t have much say in the cover design of their books is just one of the many things Orange City School District students learned when author Sharon Draper recently paid them a visit.
“She connects to us and kids our age,” said eighth grader Jihad Ruffin, who also had the honor of introducing Draper to all of the Brady Middle School students. “She tells the truth and she doesn’t sugarcoat things.”
The New York Times Bestselling author and recipient of many Coretta Scott King Book Awards for ‘promoting understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream’, Draper was brought to Orange through an Orange Schools Foundation Grant. She kicked-off an Orange school libraries fundraising event at Barnes & Noble Eton-Chagrin Boulevard by autographing copies of the dozens of books she has written and greeting a long line of fans.
“Sharon Draper was a natural choice for us,” noted Brady Middle School School Librarian Betsey Lee. “Her books about contemporary social issues appeal to students from the middle grades to high school. Through her novels, readers gain information, envision issues from a new perspective and are completely immersed in the story in the process….the experience of meeting the Best-Selling, Award-Winning author of a book you have read is a thrill not quickly forgotten.”
The author, poet and Teacher of the Year is best known for her novels “The Jericho Trilogy”, “The Hazelwood Trilogy”, “Sassy” and “Fire From the Rock.” She also signed copies and discussed one of her newest titles “Out of My Mind”.
“I love coming to schools because I still consider myself a teacher and I love the interaction with young people,” Draper said. “They give me energy; they give me ideas…I hope by the time I get finished they will have perhaps turned on to books just a little bit but absolutely enjoyed the presentation and realized that books are cool.”
They realized more than that.
“It was breathtaking,” effused sixth grader Sylvia Leonor, who said her family sees the prolific author as a celebrity. “I loved how funny she was. She’s a really good author but she didn’t come across like a celebrity. She made everything seem like she was just a normal person. She inspired me to write for fun not for money.”
“Her presentation was really interesting and she engaged us a lot by doing different voices and describing books and bringing people up on the stage,” said seventh grader Allison Weltman.
As part of the program, Draper read from her stories often using students to dramatize the action. She met with both the OHS Literacy League and the Sister to Sister organization. She also conducted multiple writers’ workshops that truly engaged the students. Asking them to step into an author’s shoes, she reminded them, ‘Don’t tell me; show me.’
“It’s all about specificity,” Draper said. “Make me experience what is going on using all of my senses. Don’t be vague.”
OHS School Librarian Joanna McNally said that the inspirational Draper practices what she preaches.
“She has written books that not only tell a story but also teach a lesson…topics of peer pressure, harassment, hazing, and bullying,” McNally said. “No matter what book we have read, we all learned a lesson of acceptance, strength and the power of a person’s voice.”
Draper used that voice to have students identify colors with sounds; and to create a poem using a blank piece of paper, but no writing utensils. Students’ “poems” ranged from ripped out letters creating words to more symbolic representations of their thoughts.
Eighth grader Daniell Biggers loved that Draper not only allowed students to be themselves but encouraged that.
“I am so excited by the fact that I get to meet one of my favorite authors,” Biggers said. “It’s amazing how she captures real life in her writing…she has taught me to always be myself and just go for what I want.”
Draper’s visit marked the beginning of the fundraising effort which continues through October 25th. A percentage of all book sales at Barnes & Noble will be donated to the Brady Middle School and Orange High School libraries when customers use the dedicated Orange Schools Bookfair number 10579621 to purchase their items at the store or on-line.
Also as part of the National Teen Read Week program, OHS junior Hallie Israel received special recognition for her own literary works including her recently published book, "Dear Mr. President".
But published writers or not, all of the students who read Draper’s books or heard her presentation left feeling accomplished.
“I learned how to love, how to be friendly, how to take care of other people,” Ruffin said, smiling. “She’s just very inspiring.”
Remember to support the OHS and BMS libraries by purchasing books at Barnes & Noble Eton through Tuesday using Bookfair #10579621!!!
To view both slideshows from the events, click on each of the photos below: