Online Author/Illustrator Studies: Leveraging E-Books, Author/Illustrator Sites, and Interviews for a Virtual Exploration of the Creative Process
BY ERIKA THULIN DAWES
The children’s literature course that I teach at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA is a survey course titled Literature for Children, Tweens, and Teens in a Diverse Society. Typically, when I introduce the idea of author/illustrator studies to the students in this class, I present groups of students with stacks of books to browse along with a curated collection of weblinks to explore. In the context of this survey course, this activity is framed as a teaching strategy and our class time is organized to introduce the goals and elements of an Author/Illustrator study and to provide a ‘tasting’ of what it is like to experience such a study. I’m careful to note that to experience the work of an author/illustrator in depth would take more time and more intensive study. When I learned I would be teaching this class ‘remotely’ from our Blackboard site, I wondered what the options were to replicate the book browsing element of this in-class activity.
Introducing the Strategy:
The readings below can support an introduction of the purposes and processes of an Author/Illustrator Study. Students can read with the following guiding questions in mind:
Experiencing an Author/Illustrator Study:
Once students have developed a concept of Author/Illustrator studies, ask them to opt into a small group to explore a collection of online resources on a single author/illustrator, simulating the experience. Students will read and view:
When I carry out this activity in class, I focus on picture books authors/illustrators because students working in small groups have time to read several picture books each. In follow up discussion, we note that the same strategies can apply to the reading of novels. In a remote learning context, students are reading eBooks. In the examples below, I make use of Epic! Books to provide access to eBooks. This platform is free to educators. I signed my graduate students up as a Class and submitted their emails, obtaining them free access until June 30, 2020.
Additionally, I use two resources available through my university’s library database:
From the many wonderful author/illustrator study possibilities, I have selected four to share in this blog entry. If you have more names to suggest, for whom eBooks are readily available, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Online Author/Illustrator Study Resources
* As mentioned above, I also provide resources from TeachingBooks.Net and Something About the Author for each of author/illustrator
As your students read across the available books and learn about their chosen author/illustrator’s life stories and creative processes, ask them to make notes about:
To share their learning with classmates, your students can use online collaboration tools such as Google Slides, Voice Thread, PowerPoint or Book Creator (some of these require a paid account).
Since this is an abbreviated author/illustrator study (really, it is just an introduction to the body of work), let your students know that they are sharing their initial findings and wonderings. You could provide students with a structure for their presentations or leave it more open ended. In the past, I’ve asked students to share a general overview, their discoveries and connections, and their questions. They conclude with a listing of “Top Three Reasons to Check Out this Author/Illustrator.”