Big issues for young minds
Author Kathryn Otoshi's books deal with bullying, prejudice and racism. But these books aren't novels or memoirs, they're children's picture books.
Each book derives from personal situations Otoshi has encountered. She then finds a personal resolution and boils that down into an important message a child can understand.
On Oct. 9, Lowrie Primary students were able to hear a book reading and engaging presentation first-hand when Otoshi visited the school.
"I'm working through a process and an authentic solution, so truly the book doesn't finish until I finish a personal, authentic solution for myself," Otoshi said. "From there, I bring it into the kids' realm. How can I make that into an engaging (book) for kids?"
Carmen Ryan, Lowrie's school counselor, grew up with Otoshi in California and remembers writing books together. After recently reconnecting on social media, Ryan mentioned that if Otoshi was ever in Portland, she wanted her to come talk with the children. As luck would have it, Otoshi was in Portland on Oct. 8.
"I was grateful because at our school we are focused on social, emotional learning, inclusivity, diversity, bully prevention, kindness and standing up for each other," Ryan said. "So this just fit in beautifully to what we are doing."
Somehow, Otoshi was able to engage nearly all 600 children at Lowrie during her hour-long presentation and book reading. She had children answering questions and actively participating in her presentation.
"I really think about the concept and how I can cross over to your youngest kid, and how we can also talk about it with adults — with one another," Otoshi said. "It's such an honor to be able to talk with the kids and go over some of the big issues like bullying and how we treat each other."
Following the event, Ryan met with the principal and instructional coordinator, and they were eager to keep the messages in the book afloat. They decided to buy "One" for every teacher and design lesson plans with an art project to launch the first message of standing up for fellow students and bully prevention.
"What I love about the book is the layering — the depth," Ryan said. "(Her books are) like an onion, which is so unusual for children's books."