HOWLAND - Author Brian P. Cleary knows how to make writing fun for kids, being someone who never liked school himself.
Cleary, a best-selling author of numerous children's books, paid a visit to students at North Road Intermediate School on Thursday to show them how to have fun with language. From noun quilts to verb trains and sensory poems, Cleary appealed to students' individual learning styles to get them excited about writing.
'I didn't like being in school. I was more of a doer. It's a long day and I have a short attention span, even today. There's a crossroads between where entertainment and inspiration meet, and that's where I like to be,'' Cleary said.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Bonnie L. Hazen
Children’s author Brian P. Cleary signs one of his books for third-grade student Ky’Leah Hull, 9, at North Road Intermediate School in Howland on Thursday.
Third-grade teacher and Trumbull Area Reading Council President Adam Zarrillo said as soon as he saw Cleary's website, he was hooked. He knew he had to invite him to Howland to work with the students.
''I just wanted to bring writing to life in the school,'' Zarrillo said.
Cleary, also known as ''the Word Nerd,'' is best known for his CATegorical series, which utilizes cartoon cats, rhyming verse and illustrations to familiarize young readers with different types of words.
Cleary said some of his books are electronic, but all of them are curriculum-based and contain information that students are tested on in yearly assessments. His books range from topics such as math, food and animals to words, phonics and poetry.
Cleary said he enjoys working with children because, unlike most adults, they have uninhibited imaginations.
''They are kind of unchecked. They end up saying things that seem kind of profound,'' he said.
Cleary also said children tend to be good writers because they don't worry as much about how things sound. ''They just kind of go for it,'' he said.
Fourth-grade teacher Marnie Xides called Cleary's sensory poem workshop excellent and said it was well received by her class. Students were able to choose a word such as happiness, for example, and write about what it feels like or tastes like.
Students in Lauren Gibbs' and Laura Delaquila's classes constructed sentences about where they come from.
Third-grader Jackson Neuman, 8, wrote about his grandpa, "pap," who is an engineer.
John Kondolios, 8, read sentences about Greece and his family aloud to the other students.
Gibbs' said Cleary's workshop helped students with critical thinking skills and developed their vocabulary.
During an age when books compete with video games and computers, Zarrillo said being able to meet the person who puts the words on the page helps children appreciate them more.
''There are not many times where a child will get to meet an author,'' he said, adding that having Cleary sign their books will give them more value and possibly inspire students to become authors themselves.
''We teach reading, we teach writing, but this brings it to life. If he can do it, they can do it,'' Zarrillo said.
Cleary didn't stop with the students - he also spoke to teachers at the Hippodrome on Thursday. He said his goal was to show them a problem and present them with a solution, the problem being his younger self.
''(It's) to show them the path I took from being an oddball kid with a short attention span to being an oddball adult with a short attention span,'' he said, adding that it helps for teachers to see the finished product - in his case, a successful author - in front of them.
After the workshops, students were able to have Cleary autograph their books.
Third-grade student Ky'Leah Hull, 9, smiled as Cleary penned a personal note on her copy of ''A Lime, a Mime, a Pool of Slime.''
Despite his dislike of school when he was younger, Cleary said he always wanted to be an author. He is often asked if he is related to beloved children's author Beverly Cleary, but he said there is no relation, although he enjoys her books.