Iowa author Jill Esbaum made a visit to several Marion County schools on Jan. 23, where she gave spoke to second graders about reading and writing.
Esbaum, who lives in Davenport, visited second graders at Knoxville, Melcher-Dallas, Pleasantville and Twin Cedars schools. She was brought in by the Rotary Club of Knoxville as part of the organization’s 2019-2020 literacy project.
Knoxville’s Rotary chapter received a grant from the Rotary Foundation to help support its literacy project. The yearlong project is providing each second grader in the four districts with three free books. The second book students received was Esbaum’s Little Kids First Big Book of How.
Before Esbaum visited the schools, each school had either a Rotarian or librarian read one of the Esbaum’s books and talk about the author. In addition to each student receiving Little Kids First Big Book of How, each second-grade classroom, as well as each city’s library, received a copy of the book.
Esbaum has written and published 15 picture books, with a sixteenth being released in April and another planned for 2022. She has also written 24 non-fiction books for children through National Geographic, including Little Kids First Big Book of How.
Esbaum did not start writing books until she was 39 years old, and even then, it took more time until she was published. For four and a half years, Esbaum sent out manuscripts to publishers, only to receive rejections.
“The more no’s I got, the more determined I got,” Esbaum said.
When she found out her first manuscript was getting published, Esbaum says she almost fainted.
Now, after having published multiple books with more on the way, Esbaum says one of her favorite aspects of being an author is visiting students.
“It is incredibly inspiring,” she says. “Being with kids and getting feedback from them, talking with them, I have a blast. And I want them to have a blast and learn something.”
During her presentation to students, Esbaum emphasizes that writing is about revision and experience. She wants students to know that nothing is perfect the first time, especially in writing.
“The thing I love about reading is that the older you get, the more you know,” Esbaum says. “The more life experience you have, the more you know nothing is ever right the first time.”
While visiting each of the schools, Esbaum read one of her books to the students and talked about reading and writing. The second graders also had the opportunity to ask Esbaum questions.
Students received their first book in September, which was based off each student’s reading score. In November, either a Rotarian or friend of the Rotary visited the second graders to read with the students and distribute the books. The final book will be given to students in the spring.
In addition, the Rotary’s literacy project for second graders, the organization distributes dictionaries to either third or fourth graders in Knoxville, Melcher-Dallas and Twin Cedars during the month of November. This has been an annual event since 2000.