After a week celebrating their love of reading, students at Brookside Elementary put down the books and got a chance to meet the people behind the words.
Lee Ann Hager, a 20-year writing teacher who has recently published a children’s story, and Mark Comley, a magician who has written an instructional book for magic tricks, visited students Friday. Both live in Nicholasville.
Many of the fourth- and fifth-graders who sat with Hager in the school’s library had a very close connection to her work. Three classes of this year’s fourth-graders have read her book, “The Ragged Suitcase: A Cricket Kelly Mystery,” and last year’s fourth-graders in Tracy Gatliff’s class had a chance to give feedback before the pages were bound.
“When the first book was just a draft, Tracy, my sister, read the book to the kids,” Hager said. “So I got their feedback on it before I put it in any kind of final form. They helped along the way.”
Hager began writing the book, which she describes as a modern-day spin on the Nancy Drew mysteries, in summer 2006 and finished it last year. Brookside fourth-grade teacher Jamie Huzl said Hager’s book had fit well with the curriculum and that students had been “counting the days” until her visit.
“It’s a fabulous book; it hits a lot of the elements that we teach as part of our core content, and then knowing that she’s coming just made it all the more exciting,” Huzl said.
While the older students listened to Hager read and asked her questions, younger ones were wowed in the gym by Comley’s magic tricks and illusions. Comley is author of “Magic Tricks You Can Perform” and spoke to the first-, second- and third-grade students about being an author of a nonfiction book after his performance.
Friday’s visits were the culmination of the school’s “I Love to Read Week,” which Huzl coordinated as a leadership project. Students and classes were rewarded for reading minutes accumulated throughout the week; the school’s parent-teacher organization provided the prizes.
The week included days to wear T-shirts that had to be read, red clothing for Valentine’s Day, book-character costumes, hats and pajamas.
Hager said she was glad to have the chance to get feedback firsthand from those for whom she wrote the book.
“They’re the intended audience, so they’re the best critics that there are,” she said. “If they don’t like it, it’s not worth anything.”