Award-winning author reads to kindergartners, faculty

Award-winning author Angela Johnson reads to the Kent State Child Development Center’s kindergarten class in the Reinberger Children’s Library on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014.

Olivia Young

Angela Johnson, an award-winning young adult and children’s author, spent the morning of Oct. 2 reading to a kindergarten class and showing her newest picture book to Kent State faculty members in the Reinberger Children’s Library Center.

The Kent State Child Development Center’s kindergarten class of 23 students, its teachers and faculty members from the School of Library and Information Science gathered to listen to the author read.

Prior to Johnson’s reading, SLIS assistant professor Marianne Martens warmed the class up by reading the picture books, “I’m Bored” by Michael Ian Black and “Violet’s Music” by Angela Johnson.

“I was a children’s librarian. I worked in publishing for many years, and here I teach graduate students,” Martens said. “It’s really fun to once in awhile have contact with the kids.”

Following the reading by Martens, Johnson read her picture book, “Julius,” which tells a story of a little girl who is given an Alaskan pig and learns that friendship is a two-way street.

“Listening to Angela Johnson talk about how these are pictures of her and her siblings in the book and that she got the idea because she grew up next to a pot-belly pig that acted like a dog helps our students realize that they can write creative stories about anything,” kindergarten teacher Alisa Westover-Huebner said.

After the kindergarten students left, Johnson read her newest picture book, “All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom,” to Kent State faculty members.

Johnson’s picture book tells the story through the eyes of one little girl about the first Juneteenth, the day when the news of freedom reached the last of the slaves in the South. Johnson said her inspiration for this book came from her mother tracing their family history.

“Their entire world changed,” Johnson said. “One minute they couldn’t leave and the next minute they could just go. It’s always intrigued me: What do you do when your life is changed in one day?”

Johnson has been named the first writer-in-residence for the Kent State University School of Library and Information Science and moved into her office in the school’s Reinberger Children’s Library Center in April 2014. According to the dictionary, writer-in-residence is “an accomplished writer with a temporary residential post at an academic institution for the purposes of sharing insights.” 

Johnson said just walking into the children’s library inspires her.

“A few times, I just get in the corner and take books down and spread them out of the floor — it’s so nice,” Johnson said. “It’s amazing, your childhood just sort of rushes back to you.”

Johnson is currently working on her upcoming young adult novel, “Dry.”

Contact Olivia Young at [email protected].