Patchwork Series Kicks Off with Jerry Craft

by Michelle Andrade
Ensworth's Patchwork program invites writers, illustrators, storytellers, musicians, and other creative people to present to our Grades K-8 students throughout the year. Their presence in our lives is like a patchwork quilt of creativity, hence the name of the program.
Jerry Craft is the author and illustrator of the graphic novel New Kid.

As a part of Patchwork this week, Ensworth welcomed Jerry Craft to Red Gables Campus to share his work, his passions, and how he went from someone who did not love reading to a world-renowned author and illustrator. Jerry opened his story by talking about how much he struggled to find books that he liked as a child. His teachers would force him to read novels when he wished he was living in comics. He shared, "They didn't like what I wanted to read, and I didn't like what they wanted me to read." 

When he could not find what he loved in books, he started writing his own, starting with stapled-together
 renditions of his own drawings and stories. Eager to grow, he began illustrating other people's books and publishing them. Then, he started publishing his books. "All this from someone who hated to read," he recalls.

As he shared, he referred back to the idea of a ladder. He encouraged students to imagine themselves at the bottom of a ladder, looking up to see where they want to go. Each step he took was like climbing one rung of the ladder toward his dream. He was creating books that students like him would be interested in; he was making comics. 
The graphic novel wave has been around since the 80s but has dramatically increased in recent years. These books offer reluctant or early readers the opportunity to see the pleasure of reading with the combination of images and words on a page beyond picture books but before full-length novels. 

Along with his talk, Jerry spoke to students about drawing. Wittingly, he expressed that as people get older, they doubt themselves even more and often will not try things for fear of failing. "Everything you do is not a mistake… It's how I learned stuff!" He emphasized that when people do something repeatedly, it gets easier. "It's how you think about it!"

Jerry Craft is the New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of the graphic novels New Kid and Class Act. New Kid is the only book in history to win the John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature (2020); the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers' Literature (2019), and the Coretta Scott King Author Award for the most outstanding work by an African American writer (2020). Jerry was born in Harlem and grew up in the Washington Heights section of New York City. See more here. 

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