When David Teague looks out at the rapt
faces of fifth-graders eager to talk with him — an actual author! — at a
reading of his latest book, he sees much more than today’s potential
customers. He sees the University of Delaware students of tomorrow.
“The best thing about the chance to visit schools as an author is
that it adds a dimension to my role as a UD literature professor,” says
Teague, who teaches English in the University’s Associate in Arts Program in Wilmington.
“I often wish, when working with a college freshman or sophomore,
that I'd had a chance to meet him or her earlier, to introduce books at a
younger age, to instill literacy and a love of literature during a more
formative time, and now I get the chance to do that.”
Teague, who recently told a group of young readers that he had
written 49 books before getting one published, has had a great deal of
success since the 2010 debut of that picture book, Franklin’s Big Dreams. This December, Disney-Hyperion released his The Red Hat, for children from about ages 3-7.
In between those two works, Teague collaborated with his wife, New York Times bestselling author Marisa de los Santos, on two books for middle-school-age readers, Saving Lucas Biggs and Connect the Stars.
Teague brings his experience as an author to his teaching at UD and
says it benefits students, even if they have no plans to write
children’s books, as they learn the craft of writing. And in the
outreach he does with children, he serves as a kind of ambassador, not
just for reading but also for the University.
“I tend to make [as many as] 40 school, library and community center
visits each year to read and discuss my books, and at every school, I
make sure to mention that I expect to see all the audience members at UD
in a few years,” he says.
One recent example of his outreach to young readers is the Family
Dinner Book Club program he developed with Nancy Ventresca, who teaches
in the Advanced Academic Program in the Christina School District’s
Thurgood Marshall Elementary School near Newark, Delaware.
The biweekly activity in November and December has brought eight
fifth-graders and their families to the school at 6 p.m. for pizza and
discussions about Connect the Stars with its author, who told the
participants, “We decided that two of the best things in life are books
and pizza, so here we are.”
Ventresca said that offering dinner, and the opportunity to bring
along younger siblings to the meetings, has made the program much more
accessible for parents to fit into their families’ hectic evening
schedules. A small grant from the College of Arts and Sciences has supported the outreach project.