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The Children's Bookshelf: Aaron Slater Illustrator - March 28, 2022

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Aaron Slater, Illustrator written in rhyme by Andrea Beaty and illustrated beautifully by David Roberts is a story about a child who wants desperately to read and write stories but cannot no matter how hard he tries. Unknown to him he has a condition called dyslexia.

When he was a toddler Aaron enjoyed listening to stories read by his mother as they relaxed in their backyard. But when he goes to school, he soon finds words just look like squiggly lines. Other children are reading and making up stories, but Aaron cannot. He sits alone in a corner of the room.

In Grade Two his class is given the assignment to write a story to be shared with the class the next day. The illustration of Aaron’s all-night struggle to write a story is powerful. But, when morning comes, he still has no story. “Then he drags off to school with his shoes filled with lead and his stomach in knots and a pain in his head…”

When he’s called upon to read his story, he stands up with his blank page and slowly begins a story about a magical flower he has drawn in his head. The illustration here shows Aaron and his entire class riding into the magical skyscape of Aaron’s story where everything has wings, including mythical beasts. His classmates are moved by his sweet story, but Aaron thinks he has failed. He runs out of the room. His teacher finds him and thanks him for his touching story. She is determined to give him extra help in reading. At that moment Aaron understands he can create stories with his art even when written words are not there.

Aaron Slater, Illustrator written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts offers a wealth of encouragement and visual beauty for readers 5-7 years of age including those who struggle with Dyslexia. This book was typeset in Dyslexie. (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021).

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.

Activity Questions for Aaron Slater, Illustrator

READING PICTURES: Turn to the picture of Miss Greer asking her students to write a story to be presented to the whole class the next day. What do you think each of the students think? (There are two classmates whose face you cannot see.) Study each facial expression as presented in the illustration. Then come up with a word or words you think each student would say based on their facial expression upon hearing about this assignment. Who is surprised, who is confused, who is eager, who is afraid, who is bored and so on?

SEEK AND FIND GAME: Study the imaginative illustrations in this book and find the following things: a blue dragon, a flower blowing a trumpet, a white unicorn, a flower playing a guitar, the teacher riding on the blue dragon, children riding on winged pencils, Aaron with yellow wings leading the way, a black swan with a crown, a white ladder, and a small white mouse.

Older readers: Have you ever had to overcome a problem that interfered with your ability to do something as does Aaron, the hero of this story? Think about it? Did someone such as a teacher, a parent or a friend give you extra help with your problem? Write a thank you note to that person.

Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.