BANGOR, Maine — The second-graders in Jo Clark’s Vine Street School class went from completely engrossed to actively engaged and back again — all while being shown the joys of reading — and not even realizing it.
Mission accomplished for Lynn Plourde, a children’s author with 27 published books to her credit.
“I consider myself a teaching author. I get excited when I have a new book, but I get just as excited when I get to share ideas with kids and get them excited,” said Plourde, who has been a professional author for 15 years after a 21-year career as a speech therapist.
The teaching author, who grew up in Skowhegan and now lives in Winthrop, visited Vine Street School on Tuesday to teach and inspire not only boys and girls to read more, but their parents as well. After spending four hours “teaching stories” to Vine Street students, Plourde returned for an hourlong evening session for children and their parents.
The overall aim was to inspire more family reading.
“I enjoy seeing the kids’ light bulbs go off and get excited, but I also like really seeing the teachers’ light bulbs go off, too,” said Plourde, 56.
To that end, Plourde didn’t just read to the elementary school students. She engaged them and used their comments to craft impromptu stories or presentations.
“The idea is to share my books and interact,” Plourde said. “And by showing parents how you can carry that over, it encourages them to take a favorite book home and do that, too.”
Vine Street School Principal Tim McCluskey sat in on a couple of Plourde’s sessions and found himself asking a question or two along with the students.
“That’s why this is so great, because we want to carry on into the home what we do here,” McCluskey said. “We only have these kids from 9 to 3 on weekdays. Parents have them the rest of the time.”
Plourde kept writing through 13 years of innumerable publisher rejections before finally getting published. “Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud” was printed in 1997.
She shared her story of persistence with students in an effort to impress upon them the power of perseverance.
“My first book, ‘Pigs in the Mud,’ was rejected,” she said. “The editor said they loved my made-up words and the pattern in the story, but the ending didn’t work. So I stayed up until 2 in the morning, wrote a new ending and got a phone call a few days later.”
Plourde has been married for 27 years to Paul Knowles. They have one daughter together and he has two sons.
“My husband had 3- and 4-year-old sons when we married 27 years ago. I read a lot of picture books with them,” she said. “I still read tons of kids’ books because I have to know what’s out there if I want to write them.”