All-School Read at Dallin Ends with a Visit from the Author

The March 15th visit of author Susan Tan to the Dallin Elementary School was extra-special, since it was the culmination of an all-school exploration of her middle-grade book, Cilla Lee-Jenkins:  Future Author Extraordinaire. Dallin Librarian Amanda Troha and Library Paraprofessional Rebecca Aaronson were able to make this possible thanks to an Arlington Education Foundation grant awarded in 2018. The One School, One Book grant enabled the Brackett Elementary School to purchase enough copies to create a shared reading experience there. Ms. Troha and Ms. Aaronson knew that the 500 books were available for use by other schools, so they she borrowed them to do the same at Dallin.

Every student received a book to take home and read and share with their families. Some teachers chose to read it aloud to their classes.The author visit, paid for through the Dallin PTO Enrichment Fund, became an incentive to read the book. As Ms. Aaronson put it, “When you go to a baseball game it’s good to know how the game is played, so when an author comes to visit it is a good idea to be familiar with their books.”

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire mirror’s Ms.Tan’s own life. Cilla knows she wants to be an author, just like Ms. Tan did when she was young. Additionally, since Cilla is biracial like the author, she, as Ms. Tan puts it “ with the questions, challenges, and many joys that navigating different racial and cultural identities can bring.”


Ms. Tan gave three presentations. At the sessions for Kindergarten through first grade students and then for second through third grade, she spoke about writing the Cilla books and introduced the audience to her new series, Pets Rule. At the presentations for the fourth through fifth grade students, the author concentrated on the Cilla books and how to write semi-autobiographical novels.

The visit was a great success and Ms. Aaronson reports that “The students were rapt with attention and asked great questions. One student even drew a wonderful portrait of Susan Tan!” Both students and teachers have shared very positive feedback about the visit, and Ms. Aaronson describes the author as “ enthusiastic and energetic presenter who really knows how to connect with her audience of children.” In the younger grades there were lots of questions about pets, so the new series that presents pets trying to rule the world will be a big hit.

Ms. Aaronson sees tremendous value in having authors come to the elementary schools and interact with the students. She describes it this way: “The great thing about having author visits is that many students get excited for a new book they might not have tried on their own. Also showing them that there's a real person behind the words of the books they read is a revelation for many and introduces or reinforces the idea that they too can become book creators.” 

Dallin has purchased extra copies of Ms.Tan’s new books for the school library. All are currently checked out and there is a long list of holds! Ms. Aaronson doesn’t expect to see any on the shelves until the school year ends. The shared Cilla books are in the process of being collected and will be returned and stored for use by another school in the future.