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Author's message of kindness helps turn D75 readers into empathetic writers


In a special visit to District 75, Children’s author Trudy Ludwig used her book, “The Invisible Boy,” to inspire elementary students to be kind, inclusive and accepting. Then she invited middle school students to continue spreading her message by creating their own picture books.

The middle school students who follow through on writing their own books will have the opportunity to read those books at the elementary schools later this fall.

“I was planting the seed for this particular school so students would understand how to take their literacy, be good readers and now to become good writers - writers with important messages to share with younger kids. So they’re role models,” Ludwig said during her Sept. 18 visit to the schools.

A strong advocate in building children's social-emotional learning skills, Ludwig has collaborated with leading experts and organizations including Sesame Workshop, the International Bullying Prevention Association and similar groups. She is the author of 13 books and 14 published stories and is currently working on another book.

Her book “The Invisible Boy” is a lesson on how small acts of kindness can help other children feel valued. It fits in well with the District 75 theme this year, “Books Bring Us Together,” said Jill Unger, Director of Teaching and Learning for Preschool-5.

“It not only builds empathy for others, but helps us connect with each other based on what we’ve read,” she said. “This is the next level of how books bring us together. Our middle school students will share their message with others based on books they’ve written.”

At Mechanics Grove and Washington schools, Ludwig focused her lesson on how to respond to bullying and hurtful words by offering students specific developmentally appropriate strategies. She told children the three key words to remember if they see someone being bullied: “Comfort, include and report.” She urged children to comfort the person who is being victimized, include them so they don’t feel alone, or  let an adult know if someone is being bullied.

At Carl Sandburg, Ludwig introduced not only the writing process, but explained the importance of the illustration process and how writers and illustrators must work as a team.

Unger said the picture book project not only fosters the love of reading among students, but targets another D75 directive, allowing students to see themselves as both readers and as writers.

Books are a great vehicle for teaching children about kindness and inclusion, Ludwig said.

“That’s why I write, because in my books I’m trying to build their social-emotional learning skills,” she said.

Many of the themes in Ludwig’s books, from grief to isolation or anxiety are difficult situations for anyone to understand, Unger said. But using a picture book can make the conversation for educators and parents easier and more relatable to children.

Books that have characters facing real-life issues really resonates with the students and keeps them reading, Unger added. The more they read, the better they can understand these issues.

While Ludwig won’t be back to District 75 this year, students from Carl Sandburg are prepared to carry on her good work.


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