NEW CASTLE —
Students at Laurel Elementary School had been preparing for a visit from Charles R. Smith Jr. for weeks.
Tuesday afternoon they watched in the school’s music room as the young author’s stories came to life.
The writer, photographer, illustrator and poet entertained and educated his audience, reciting from some of the 30 children’s books he has written.
He spoke to students describing the characters in his books, including “Black Jack,” about former heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson.
He also read “I am American,” which celebrates diversity throughout the land and “Brick by Brick,” which tells the story of the people who built the White House, including slaves.
“Dance with Me” is a book best read with thyme and rhythm with the aid of drumsticks.
Smith’s appearance was part of the annual Author Visit sponsored by the Westminster College chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in the field of education.
Dr. Harold Dunn, principal, said the students knew who they would be seeing and what it was about before they entered the music room.
Sarah Marcotullio, one of four kindergarten teachers at Laurel Elementary, said her class read Smith’s “Dance with Me” and did a project that included writing in sentences about the book.
“They already knew many of his stories,” said Marcotullio, who noted that the students made cards which were presented to the author.
Students form the high school drew illustrations from some of Smith’s books. They were displayed near the entrance with a banner welcoming the author.
Teacher Jen Hileman said her class had been reading from Smith’s books for weeks.
In between reading and performing, Smith delivered his message to students.
“Confidence is when you believe in yourself,” he said. “If you believe in yourself and are willing to work and stay positive, you can make your dreams come true.”
Smith knows that first hand.
He set his goals on becoming a writer and photographer and pursued every opportunity until he made it happen, moving from Los Angeles to New York.
“Right now they are just learning how to learn,” Smith said of his youthful audience. “I want them to know that learning is fun and education is the key to not only achieving your goals, but setting them.”
Following two sessions at the Laurel school with kindergarten through second grade students, Smith spoke at Wesminster’s McKelvey Campus Center and yesterday at the New Wilmington Elementary School.
Smith lives in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., with his wife and three children.