Hillside kindergarten and first grade students could not contain their giggles in response to Jerry Pallotta’s audiovisual antics on a recent Thursday morning. Pallotta is a former Needham native and the author of the Who Would Win? series along with multiple alphabet and math themed books. He was invited to Hillside to make three presentations explaining the steps that go into writing non-fiction books and showing how much fun writing and reading non-fiction can be.

Pallotta’s day-long visit was funded by a grant from the NEF’s Spring 2017 Small Grants Cycle. Hillside parent Seema Meloni authored the grant with the support of school-based partners Liz Hitron, Hillside librarian, and Sena Hsu, 4th grade teacher. Their application pointed to recent research and changing Common Core standards that require elementary teachers to increase the amount of reading time that is focused on non-fiction texts to 50%. “It’s often challenging to find ways to excite students to focus on non-fiction texts,” Meloni wrote. This visit was envisioned to be a creative and innovative way to spark children’s interests and encourage them to spend more of their independent reading time on non-fiction materials.

“I loved that he showed students his writing drafts and work-in-progress to show that writing truly is a process,” Sena Hsu pointed out, “He also shared some titles and ideas of books that never got published. It’s so important for kids to realize that even adults try and don’t always succeed and that’s ok. That’s how we learn and grow. What great Growth Mindset moments!”

Jacob Peters, 4th grader, summed up the visit: “Jerry Palotta is a very bright and kind person. He is an awesome author, too.”