• Dec. 6, 2023

    Children’s author visits Baker and Streams

    Authors DayBaker and Streams elementary students had the opportunity to experience a day with children’s author Josh Funk on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. The day was made possible through a collaborative effort between school districts, schools, parent organizations and Upper St. Clair’s technology department.

    At Upper St. Clair, the author’s visit was coordinated by Baker Elementary Librarian Linda Connor and Streams Librarian Stephanie Kellner with support from the Baker PTA and Streams PTO.

    “Upon hearing of an opportunity to have Josh visit, Linda worked with a fellow librarian at Avonworth to help make this happen,” Mrs. Kellner said.

    In fact, this spirit of collaboration was key to bringing Josh to Pittsburgh and creating this author’s day opportunity for students in six schools, representing four local school districts, including Avonworth, Mt. Lebanon, South Fayette and Upper St. Clair.

    Kindergarten“Sharing his travel expenses made the visit possible,” Mrs. Connor said. “I always appreciate talking to librarians from other districts and hearing about books/authors that they are interested in bringing to their schools. I am grateful for the librarian at Avonworth.”

    Josh Funk is a software engineer and the author of books like the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, How to Code a Sandcastle, Dear Unicorn, Dear Dragon, My Pet Feet, the It's Not a Fairy Tale series, Lost in the Library, and more.

    “Some of our students are familiar with his Lady Pancake & Sir French toast characters as well as his books featuring Patience and Fortitude, the New York Public Library Lions,” Stephanie Kellner, Streams librarian said.

    Josh presented two programs – one for younger students in kindergarten, first and second grade and another for third and fourth graders. Both programs complemented Upper St. Clair’s curriculum.

    “In second grade, students study fairy tales and so Josh's K-2 presentation focused on his ‘It's Not’ fairy tale series. He, along with some talented teacher-actors, shared one of his books in this series,” Mrs. Kellner said. “He then gave students a behind the scenes look at being an author, and what it took for him to get his books published.”

    The program for third and fourth graders focused on the author’s "How to Code" series.

    “In library, we work with Dash robots in third and fourth grade, so this connection was perfect,” Mrs. Kellner said. “He again shared a book from this series and then had students ‘code’ and draw their own robots. He encouraged students to take these robot characters and use them to start their own stories.”

    While author’s days happen annually in the elementary schools, this marked the first time Upper St. Clair has connected two of its schools for virtual live programming. The K-2 presentation at Baker in the morning was streamed live for Streams kindergarten students and the same presentation in the afternoon at Streams was broadcast live for Baker kindergarteners.

    “This is the first time we have shared a live presentation from one school to another school,” Mrs. Connor said. “We have watched multiple authors via ZOOM, but this provided the added benefit of allowing our kindergarteners to watch it in real time. Our tech department put in a lot of time making sure that they got good sound and picture quality of Josh and his slides.”

    Including the kindergarten students in the author’s visit was a priority for both librarians.

    “Often, depending on the time of an assembly, kindergarten students miss out on these opportunities,” Mrs. Kellner said. “We felt it was important to make sure they had a chance to listen to Josh Funk, hear from an author and connect – even if it was virtual. We are very grateful to our tech department for making this idea a reality!”

    Mrs. Kellner believes that author visits like this help to inspire children to love reading.

    “Hearing directly from authors fosters creativity and a lifelong passion for literature,” she said. “The memory of these opportunities will stay with our students, and make storytelling engaging, promoting literacy and imagination.”

    Not only did hundreds of students benefit from Josh Funk’s author visit, but the collaboration among the four school districts provided a boost for local bookstores.

    “The students here really enjoyed his presentation, and they love his books,” Mrs. Connor said.  “Another advantage is that, according to Josh, each school district utilized a different independent bookstore in the area.”

    For more information about Josh Funk and his books, visit him at joshfunkbooks.com.