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Authors give Nikiski students the word on reading, writing

Posted: Wednesday, February 07, 2001

February is Love of Reading Month, and many Kenai Peninsula schools have designated the week beginning Monday as Love of Reading Week.

To celebrate books, teachers have been organizing fun family book activities and inviting authors to share the magic of reading and writing with students.

"Kids are in awe of authors," said Nikiski Elementary librarian Denise Cox.

To kick off the month, children's book author David Greenberg toured four central peninsula schools last week. He had been on the peninsula about four years ago and was such a hit that schools have been raising funds ever since to have him back, Cox said.

"A couple kids remember him. He did a superb job," she said. "He is just great with kids."

In class, Greenberg's enthusiasm and animation rub off on the children, until they are practically hopping out of their chairs and itching to write. He offers a mix of solid writing tips and goofy humor that appeals to all ages. The guy is just plain fun.

Greenberg readily admits he tours schools because he needs the money he earns on educational tours.

"There is just no money in books," he said.

Five of his books have been published, a sixth is about to come out, and four more are in what he called the "publishing pipeline." His weird and wacky works include his debut, "Slugs," and more recent titles such as "Your Dog Might be a Werewolf; Your Toes Could All Explode" and "The Great School Lunch Rebellion."

"My royalties are just minuscule," he said. "It is tough to ignite a reputation. ... It is easy to sink into oblivion."

But the main reason he takes his craft to class is because he loves teaching children.

"I have found the kids wonderful, lovable and inspiring. I have gotten as much from them as they have gotten from me," he said.

"I've got a passion for this stuff. It's contagious. I think I have some success with it."

Greenberg offers three simple but weighty tips for young writers:

n Read, because a person must be a reader to be a writer;

n Persevere, because talent is nothing without work and tenacity; and

n Care passionately about what you are doing.

Ann Kendall, a sixth-grade teacher at Nikiski who had Greenberg in her class, said his visit energized her students. It was an opportunity for them to meet a real professional who could communicate on their level, she said.

"One thing most kids appreciated was seeing how lively and fun writing could be. ... He really captured the fun of writing for them."

Her students came away with motivation, a sense of combining work and fun and the realization that they had great story sources of their own, she said.

Greenberg is not the only school visitor from the literary world.

Sears Elementary School in Kenai recently had an Artist in the Schools residency with storyteller Rona Levinthal, and mystery writer S.J. Rozan, visiting Alaska for a Sisters in Crime convention, will visit Redoubt Elementary School in Soldotna at 7 p.m. Tuesday for a family Love of Reading event.

The schools have other events planned for book lovers this month, too.

Look for book fairs in school libraries during parent-teacher conferences on Feb. 19 and 20.

Schools also conduct reading incentive programs, such as Reading is Fundamental, known by its acronym "RIF."

Sterling Elementary School librarian Vicki Freese said her school will have a RIF book giveaway Feb. 16 and a Bingo for Books taco feed and family fun night Feb. 23. Everyone pitched in to raise funds for books, including a first-grade class that made cookies and donated the $57 from their sales to the literacy cause.

"Every child in the school gets a free book," Freese said.

Freese also was the one who organized Greenberg's visit. Planning the author's itinerary with so many schools and events was a major challenge, she said.

But all involved are pleased with the outcome.

Greenberg said he already is looking forward to a third visit to the Kenai Peninsula.

"I go all over the country," he said.

"In my view, there is no place so exotic and wonderful as Alaska. ... This is my favorite place to come. I genuinely consider it an honor to be here."

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