Spotlight: Sue Stauffacher
This week we’re going to look at some authors, illustrators, and teachers that are going out of their way to help kids become better readers.
How many children’s authors can you think off of the top of your head that go about winning awards at the same time as Denzel Washington? When the 39th Annual NAACP Image Awards were given out this year the “Outstanding Literary Work – Children” category was full of hotshot contenders. Now take a gander at what won:
Outstanding Literary Work – Children
“A Friendship For Today” – Patricia C. McKissack (Scholastic Inc.)
“Elijah of Buxton” – Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic Inc.)
“Let it Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals” – Ashley Bryan (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing/Atheneum)
“Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson” – Sue Stauffacher, Author; Greg Couch, Illustrator (Random House) (Winner)
“Young Pele: Soccer’s First Star” – Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author; James Ransome, Illustrator (Random House)
That’s right. The winner is one Ms. Sue Stauffacher (with credit also going to Greg Couch’s gorgeous pics).
So who is Ms. Stauffacher anyway? Well, according to the website Readia, “Sue is a children’s book author with more than fifteen years experience introducing at-risk kids to the joys of reading. She does this through her work in the schools, through her speaking engagements, and as a book reviewer and journalist. Her recent books include: Nothing But Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson (Knopf, 2007), Donutheart (Knopf, 2006), Bessie Smith and the Night Riders (Putnam, 2006), Harry Sue (Knopf, 2005), and Donuthead (Knopf 2003).”
I know many a librarian who has fallen in love with the understated underrated Donuthead, and it was a gigantic hit with my homeschooler bookgroup, I can tell you. Sue has a way with words and characters that charms your average everyday reader. Her equal attention to fiction as well as non-fiction is notable, and her books are always worth reading.
But on top of this, Sue is also responsible for the Wireman comic series. Her site explains it this way:
“After working with at-risk kids for several years, author Sue Stauffacher was disappointed with the reading material available for struggling readers. Since she was also a children’s book reviewer, the literacy tutors she worked with kept asking for titles that wouldn’t shame an older child who was behind in reading. They wanted text with complex plots, but low vocabulary. Sue turned up very little in her search, so she decided to begin producing materials herself. After extensive research, Sue chose the comic book format because the graphic images could help struggling readers with the simple text and also add a layer of sophistication to the story.
In 1997, she began to work on prototypes. After a series of tries, in 2001 she came up with Wireman. The comic was inspired by the Philadelphia Wireman, the outsider artist whose sculptures were found when an abandoned factory was knocked down in Philadelphia in the 1970s. Though the artist was never found, historians have determined that he was an African American male.”
I’ve read through eight issues of the series and it’s kind of a relief to read a comic book again after all these years. The books use the 100 most common words in the English language, encouraging reluctant readers and kids that are way below their reading level the chance to carry around something cool. Right now Sue has, “eight issues, an extensive curriculum, two district-wide pilots underway, one with 8th graders and one with 4th graders.” I’ll be giving out copies in my library soon. If you’d like a look at the first issue, you can view it online here on Sue’s website. A great author, a wonderful person, and an educator as well. Sue, I salute you.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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