In this edition of Proximity & Beyond, virtual students learned tips and tricks to become better readers with special guest, children's book author, Kim Norman. She described her career, read one of her books aloud, and led the children in a writing exercise so they could become authors themselves. She also discussed how she uses the writing process to produce clever and funny books.
The session started with introductions: Jennifer Rice, a virtual teacher with Proximity Learning, led the session by introducing Kim Norman and her dogs, which act as the main characters in some of her children’s books.
About the author
Kim Norman never outgrew her love of children's books, so now she shares the joy of books and writing with children from Mobile to Maine, from Columbia to California. You might have seen her books in the occasional Scholastic Club flier or Scholastic Book Fair.
Kim’s I Know a Wee Piggy (Dial Books for Young Readers, illustrated by Henry Cole) was reviewed in the New York Times. It was distributed to more than a quarter million young readers through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The Bot that Scott Built (Sterling) was featured in Barnes and Noble’s National Story Time and selected as a Kohl’s Cares book.
Kim calls herself a “Bedtime reading evangelist.” Bedtime stories promote literacy, vocabulary, and imagination in the home. She has been invited to more than 250 schools around the US, has spoken at countless conferences, and has Skyped with students as far away as Hong Kong and South Korea.
The importance of literacy after school
Learning during school hours can be reinforced at home to give students more practice. Virtual teacher Jennifer Rice says, “I have always loved reading and writing. It opens up many windows to learning, including the love for other subjects.
“When I taught in a brick-and-mortar school, I was in a district that focused on reading and writing. We were very fortunate that our district ELA coordinator ensured we would have many opportunities to have access to authors. Therefore, we had author visits every year for the students. Every year, I would have students return from the visits with excitement and passion for reading and writing.”
Literacy and special education
Real-life experiences make a difference in student lives and learning. They help students focus on the subject and get excited about reading and writing.
“As I teach special education, it was not an easy feat for us to ‘earn’ the privilege to attend the sessions. My students had various learning differences that prevented reading and writing from being easy.
“Those who went to the sessions never failed to grow academically and socially. Socially, they gained the determination and grit to overcome the issues they had and move forward.”
Free virtual school enrichment opportunities
Ms. Rice wanted to include the same experiences for her virtual students. She believes they should also have access to unique learning opportunities, even if she’s not physically in the classroom.
“I wanted to replicate that phenomenon for students in the virtual world. I still teach special education, and it is more difficult to access things such as field trips and visits from adults. For Proximity & Beyond, I wanted to bring some of my experiences as a learner and a teacher to the students.”
How to schedule authors' visits
Ms. Rice simply reached out to authors via email to schedule the author's visit. Many authors publish their email addresses on their websites, making them easy to contact.
“[When I emailed Kim Norman], I outlined that I was a SPED teacher and wanted to focus on bringing in learners with difficulties. She thought it was a worthy cause, and the rest is history. She graciously gave up two afternoons and an evening to prepare for this session.
“I was overwhelmed by her generosity and desire to give students access to a real live author, but even more, for her, she wanted to give passion to students with disabilities. We met twice because she wanted to make sure that the students understood. We brainstormed one afternoon. Then, just before the event, we brainstormed again to see that the audience and the program matched.
“This was all new to Kim, so I feel she went above and beyond for us. I am grateful for authors like Kim, who not only write amazing books but also understand that connecting with kids is the most important thing. She tailored her talk specifically to our students. That is amazing!”
Proximity & Beyond is open to all of our virtual school students, not just Ms. Rice’s class. She said, “I truly enjoyed meeting new students and watching them learn. It was wonderful that they were such an interactive group and did a great job talking and interacting with Mrs. Norman.”
“I hope this will be a staple of Proximity Learning virtual schools because it opens up a new world for the students who cannot attend regular field trips and in-class things that happen in the brick-and-mortar schools.”
Proximity & Beyond is an exclusive after-school enrichment program for our virtual school clients. Our next Proximity & Beyond session features Proximity Learning middle school science teacher Ms. Harris, who will lead the Scat, Tracks, & Teeth: Zoology session. To participate, click here to learn more about Proximity Learning virtual schools.