Today, I am welcoming Cathryn and John Sill to the blog to talk about their most recent book ABOUT HABITATS: SEASHORES.
Alyson: About Habitats: Seashores is your newest book in the About Habitats series. Can you share with readers how you and your husband, John work together on your books? What does the process look like?
Cathryn-I take the first several weeks of the process to research my subject. I let the information “cook” in my brain and decide the important facts about the subject that should be included in the book. After determining the content, I begin to condense the information into language a young learner can understand. I write the main body of the book first and then supplement the information with the Afterword.
John-After Cathryn finishes the manuscript she and I discuss the illustrations I will paint. We decide how to best depict the words she has written. We carefully research the animals and plants that are found in the habitats she is writing about. Accuracy is extremely important when presenting facts.
Alyson: About Habitats: Seashores is very accessible for younger children who are just beginning to read independently. Though the books can be used with a variety of age groups for various purposes, was there an intentional decision to write for a younger audience?
Cathryn-When I was a kindergarten teacher in the public school system I was interested in writing material I could use with my students. Being familiar with the age group was a definite factor in my decision to write for this audience. I have a good understanding of what young children are able to comprehend. I love nature, books and kids so it just seemed natural to write books about the things I love for an audience that is important to me.
Alyson: You have done a number of "About" books, first with a focus on animals and next with habitats. Will there be more "About" books? Can you share anything about upcoming projects?
John-Since I am primarily an artist who paints birds, I am excited to be working on the book “About Woodpeckers” which is next in the animal series.
Alyson: Cathryn, your bio indicates that you were a teacher for 30 years. How has your experience in the classroom influence your writing for children? How have you seen the teaching of science and writing in the classroom change over the years?
Cathryn-At the time I began writing my books there was a shortage of accurate and interesting non-fiction for young children. I am pleased to say that good books about science and natural history are much more plentiful now than when I first started teaching. I have always enjoyed reading non-fiction so it seems natural to write about the things that interest me. When visiting schools I tell students that if they have a choice they should write about the things they love and enjoy. It is easier and a lot more fun.
Alyson: Can you share about a few of your favorite school visits?
Cathryn-During the question and answer time getting the very young children to understand the difference between a story to share and a question is often a challenge. One little boy started sharing a story. I tried to gently interrupt him and remind him that this was a time for questions. He didn’t miss a beat. He started over with his story prefacing it with “Did you know that I …?”. Then he went on with his story. I love kindergartners!
John-One of my favorite visits was to a school that had prepared for our time with them by having the students write a musical using the book About Insects as their inspiration. They performed for us with great gusto.
About the creative team:
CATHRYN AND JOHN SILL are the dynamic team who created the About... series as well as the About Habitats series. Their books have garnered praise from educators and have won a variety of awards, including Bank Street Best Books, CCBC Choices, NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12, Orbis Pictus Recommended, and Science Books and Films Best Books of the Year. They live in North Carolina.
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