With the theme of "Teaching Literature in a Diverse, Technological Society," the event — sponsored by the College of Education and Rural Education Research and Service Consortium — is set for 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 29.
It features award-winning author and illustrator Chris Soentpiet (pronounced soon-peet), adopted from South Korea when he was eight years old by an American family in Oregon, and Mike Shoulders, author of V is for Volunteer: A Tennessee Alphabet, who uses rap music to teach children about the importance of reading.
Soentpiet returned to his native homeland to research one of his books, Peacebound Trains, and visited his biological brother and three sisters for the first time since he had been adopted.
The artwork Soentpiet did for that book won a New York City Society of Illustrators gold medal, the highest honor given by the organization. A number of his other books have won similar distinctions, including a Parents’ Choice Foundation Gold Award and the International Reading Association’s Book Awards for 1996, 2000 and 2002.
Soentpiet graduated with honors from Pratt Institute, where he majored in fine arts and education, and he is currently the chairperson of the New York City Society of Illustrators.
"He just mesmerizes everyone, young or old, when he reads. He just emanates the love of reading."
That’s how Mike Shoulders’ peers describe the former teacher’s talent for captivating an audience. Now a school administrator and author with a publication contract with Sleeping Bear Press for a total of six books, he still believes that no one is too old to be read aloud to.
"Reading aloud builds vocabulary. Children hear words they may not hear aloud in another context," he says. "You read things that pull the children up, things they can’t read to themselves."
Because Shoulders discovered that his own book — an alphabet in poem form with sidebars containing historical facts for older readers — wasn’t a good read-aloud, he found a more successful format to convey his ideas to children by composing a rap song from his words.
The conference will also feature presentations by Calvin Dickinson, Jennie Ivey and Lisa Rand, local residents who co-authored Tennessee Tales the Textbooks Don’t Tell, and Doris Sevier, a former Cookeville Junior High English teacher from Livingston who self-published a series of children’s stories she wrote.
A number of special interest sessions will also be presented. Topics will include literature for Hispanic children, multiethnic picture books, technology and literature, book discussion groups, bibliography and literature and the standards.
Registration cost through the morning of the conference is $25 per person, and it includes the price of lunch and admission to exhibits and autograph sessions.
Lots of exhibitors with books and related items for sale at discounted prices are also expected.
For more information about the conference, call Connie Nichols at 931/372-3791.