In December, First Grade students began reading and studying books by Christian Robinson. Students are learning about how Christian Robinson is both a writer and an illustrator, and sometimes even fills both roles in the same book! As First Graders read Robinson’s books, they discover connections between his life and his stories and art, compare and contrast themes in his stories, write, sing, practice collage art, and have fun!
To kick off the author study, students were introduced to Robinson through his well-loved book You Matter. We read it as a class in the Lower School Library’s Cozy Corner and discussed why it is important to let others know that they matter to us. One First Grader said, “So they know they are special and that someone loves them.”
Afterward, the students “met” Christian Robinson in a PBS Kids read-along video and completed a dinosaur drawing activity with him. The following week, we read a joyful story called Little Penguins, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Robinson. The students made adorable penguins to accompany the book. These are just two of the many books and activities in the author study unit.
One of Christian Robinson’s best-known collaborators is Matt de la Peña. The two creators worked together on the books Last Stop on Market Street, Milo Imagines the World, and Carmela Full of Wishes. Often, authors and illustrators do not know each other and work independently from one another to create a picture book. For de la Peña and Robinson, it’s a different story.
I recently attended a virtual literary event, Bookfest @ Bank Street, where de la Peña and Robinson discussed their collaborations at length, sharing personal experiences that inspired two books. I was struck by the intimacy and vulnerability of their conversation. They shared examples of how they inspired and helped one another to impart some of the challenging but beautiful moments from their own lives into their books in ways that all children can relate to.
Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson create books that speak to people from all backgrounds and upbringing. While their personal experiences might be a starting point, in the end, their books focus on the power of imagination, kindness, and the ability of all children to dream. I am eagerly anticipating sharing these books with First Graders in the new year, so we can dream together.
With Christian Robinson’s wide array of books, including biographies, we have lots to explore together. By the end of January, we will have read most of the books by Robinson and become experts on his body of work. And, if you are wondering, I reached out to Christian Robinson about visiting Colorado Academy, and he is not doing author visits at this time. Maybe in the future….