PITTSBURG — Children’s book author and illustrator Don Tate appeared at Memorial Auditorium on Tuesday and spoke to local elementary school students about his work as part of the Pittsburg Public Library Young Authors Program.
“I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people in the world because I get to do what I absolutely love,” Tate told the crowd. “I love what I do. I write and I illustrate stories. But my favorite part of my job is when I get to come back and share my stories and share my drawings with my young readers.”
Tate is the author and/or illustrator of more than 50 children’s books, including Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, The Cart that Carried Martin, and Strong As Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became The Strongest Man on Earth.
Tate told the students that when he was their age, he was not good at sports. “I could never dribble a basketball,” he said. “When I tried to dribble a basketball I’d run, and dribble, and dribble, and fall on my face. I was not good at basketball. But what I discovered is that everyone is good at something. You all are better than someone else at something.”
Brendan Finley, a kindergarten teacher at Meadowlark Elementary School in Pittsburg, said the event is a unique opportunity for students to learn about a career they may not have had much exposure to.
“I think it’s definitely something that helps pique their interest, and an author isn’t something they normally think of being when they grow up, so it helps put it out there for them to be interested in,” Finley said. Even for students who have no interest in writing, illustration, or becoming a children’s book author later in life, it is still a fun event, he said.
“There’s a lot of laughter and the kids are hearing some new stories and they get to actually hear the author read their own stories, so it’s pretty exciting for them,” Finley said.
In the morning, 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students came to Memorial Auditorium and heard Tate speak. Later in the day, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade students visited the Young Authors Program event.
Pittsburg Public Library Director Bev Clarkson said this was the third annual Young Authors Program at Memorial Auditorium.
“Years ago they used to do a young authors conference at the university and that kind of ended after a while I think through lack of funding, and we decided several years ago to try to pick it up again,” she said.
Clarkson collaborated with Babs Tims, a teacher at Lakeside Elementary School, and Dr. Susan Knell of Pittsburg State University to secure a grant from the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas to fund the program, she said. Knell was also instrumental in getting Tate to appear at this year’s event.
“Dr. Susan Knell attended a reading festival in Austin and she heard him speak and she recommended him for our program,” Clarkson said.
Tate was also scheduled for an event later in the day at Pittsburg Public Library, where his books would be available for purchase and signing by the author.
“At 6:30 tonight he’s going to do a program that’s open to the public, and it will be similar to what this is but more geared towards probably an adult audience, or anybody who wants to come in and meet him,” Clarkson said. She added that the Memorial Auditorium event is popular with local students.
“We get so much feedback from the kids, I mean they come into the library, you know, months later and they’ll say ‘Remember when that author was there? That was really cool.’ So you know, they remember this,” Clarkson said.
“That’s the main reason that I do it is because it is such an inspirational thing for the kids.”
She also said she is appreciative of local teachers and school staff for their efforts in helping to make the Young Authors Program happen.
“They have been wonderful throughout the whole process,” Clarkson said. “I know it takes time out of their day to bring all these kids here to the Memorial Auditorium, but they look forward to it. We get really positive feedback from all of them, so it’s really been a win-win situation, you know, for everybody involved.”