Another important lesson...share the classics if you want to build readers. Look at the books that are recommended for your grade level and weave them into your program. Our kids need to hear the classics and discover what's new too. Even though he loved comics, Jeff's mom, a teacher, shared with him many great books, Where the Wild Things Are (which he said gave him bad dreams.), Swimmy by Leo Lionni, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, and the "Fudge" stories by Judy Blume.
Jeff grew up in Ft. Washington, Virginia, and he remembered buying his very first book and the experience in the book store. Crown Books gave him the feel of hardbacks, the smell of the paper, and the imagery of a great story. It was there that he found his first interest in books. He purchased his first book gift of Bloom County's "Loose Tails" for dad, but he went on to enjoy Tolkein and many others. He discovered a book,, How to Draw and Sell Comics which got him interested in writing comics, and the lesson here is that books can help lead you to careers that will make you happy.
Several years later, Jeff began at the University of Maryland and it was there that he began to write. His first book, The Igdoof Bathroom Companion...got rejected, but he did not give up. That is important an important life lesson. Writing takes practice, so be persistent.
Once Jeff graduated, he was hired with a newspaper doing layouts (which we see as a skill in his Wimpy Kid books). Then, he moved into medical software, and eventually, game designer. I never knew he was involved with Fun Brain? Do you use that website? Cool huh?? He began working for Pearson, but still kept looking for the "right" job. He enjoyed workng on the Poptropica website. He loved the fact that this website requires no words to play. No identifying information and no words needed to play. Both Funbrain and Poptropica used his ability to draw cartoons. He worked on the illustrations for both.
A few years ago, Jeff read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It is a great book that looks at statistics and how the variables that impact them. The book gave him the encouragement to continue working on Wimpy Kid. The lesson here is to choose positive. Motivation in all aspects of life is important, and providing students with a purpose for reading pushes them to seek other books later.
It took eight years working on Diary of the Wimpy Kid, and three years of work trying to get it published. When the publisher called, they decided to break it into a series of books, and the original included the events in book one through book five. To this day, Jeff said that he truly treasures the feel of hardback book. He said, "The physical book reaches senses that digital copies just can't." The experience of going to the bookstore, looking for just the right book, feeling it and the pride of carrying it out of the store is an important experience for children to have.
Jeff Kinney is still working since he "doesn't want to give up health insurance", but he is reaching another goal soon, opening up The Unlikely Story Bookstore where an old general store called Falks Market once stood. Below is the before and after, and if you're ever in Plainville, Massachusetts, you'll have to drop in. It sounded like an amazing place, and I think the lesson to learn from this is to follow your dreams and what is important to you.
Finally, Jeff had a few words about Wimpy kid becoming a movie. He explained that he was quite nervous and felt very responsible for the final product even though the movie crew had the control. He recalled how he felt watching it for the first time. He said, "It was gut wrenching really." He likes being in control of the ink and pictures, but this time he had to give up control. He was happy though to be involved with casting and on the set.
Well, in the coming weeks, I'll try to share a few more things I learned from the conference. I believe it is time to grade a few papers. Don't forget to enter this week's giveaway and to tell your friends. One of the prizes is a full year's subscription to Snap Learning. That is a huge prize and offers 35 seats, so each child in the winner's classroom will get to use it.