NEWBERRY — As part of Read Across America Week, Newberry Elementary School hosted a guest, author-illustrator Johnathan Miller.
The event coincided with the birthday of Dr. Seuss and with Dr. Seuss-themed school activities on March 2. Miller gave two presentations and held a book signing.
Miller explained his path to becoming an author, which really was an organic one. Shortly after college graduation, he started artwork using cut paper, similar to students doing artwork with construction paper.
As his art became more popular, he sold some prints, but he also looked for more creative outlets. When he dog sat for a friend and met her amazing Daschund, Sammy, he had the makings of his first book featuring Sammy, the Wonder Dachshund, the internet’s best fact checking watch dog.
NES Literacy Coach Angie Lown was excited that Miller’s talk targeted students’ writing experiences in the classroom. Lown said his discussion of the inspiration to write about interests and experiences reinforced reading and writing themes teachers across the Newberry County School District have emphasized this school year.
Besides using his life experiences, Miller spoke to students also about researching facts surrounding his topics.
“With K-2 students currently writing how to and other teaching books, and with third graders currently spending four to six weeks researching a topic of their choice, Miller’s words about hard work and persistence were just what students needed to hear,” Lown said.
Miller displayed artwork in various stages of production which gave the students more insight into how he expresses himself artistically. Some of his art and inspiration came from his childhood, particularly a flashback scene to 1989 when the author was in fourth grade and attended space camp.
Miller also shared the process used to add stars to the space book. He poked holes through construction paper and then held the paper to a window on a bright day. The photograph he took of that scene had a starlight twinkle, something the mixed paper artist was proud to point out.
As he showed students how pictures became inspiration for writing, students were able to connect to their own writing processes.
“One writing strategy used in the lower grades is to begin with pictures,” Lown said. “Elaboration in pictures then becomes a strategy for inspiring students to elaborate and say more with words.”
Miller has said much more with art and words. He has written more books, including a three-part series about Sammy’s family, which is currently in process.
With a theme of, “hard work pays off,’ Miller reinforced the 21st Century Learning Skills of resiliency, productivity and creativity to NES students.
His presentation was part of visits he made throughout the School District of Newberry County to promote literacy, writing and creative expression.