This year's General Session speakers run the gamut from a teacher turned scribe of several bestselling children's book series to the host of one of the all-time most beloved television programs for kids to a longtime motivational speaker. Oh, and let's not forget a a certain quirky author/illustrator with a penchant for pigeons and a young, energetic politician who delivered an inspirational keynote at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Of course, we're talking about Rick Riordan, LeVar Burton, Dr. Debbie Silver, Mo Willems, and Mayor Julián Castro.
All five of these celebrated speakers share an intense passion for the written word—and how those words can inspire a child's lifelong love of reading.
Reading Myths and the Myths of Reading
Before penning the bestselling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, San Antonio's Rick Riordan taught English and history for fifteen years. In this session, Rick discusses what he's learned from his students, his readers, and his own sons about turning kids into avid book lovers. How does an author write successfully for a young audience? What motivates reluctant readers to pick up a book? And why does mythology have such enduring power?
LeVar Burton has been capturing the hearts of audiences for three decades. In addition to his iconic television and film roles, LeVar is perhaps best known as the host and executive producer of the beloved PBS children's series, Reading Rainbow. His work on the Peabody Award-winning series garnered him a total of ten Emmy Awards, five NAACP Awards, and multiple nominations. LeVar says he's most proud of Reading Rainbow's ability to use the medium of television to help create "human beings who are passionate about literature." In June 2012, LeVar launched an interactive Reading Rainbow App for the iPad. Within 36 hours, it became the No. 1 educational app in the iTunes store. A staunch advocate for children's literacy, LeVar is also one of the most followed people in the world on Twitter, with nearly 1.8M followers.
Dr. Debbie Silver
Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8: Teaching Kids to Succeed
With 30 years spent as a teacher, staff development instructor, and university professor, Debbie Silver doesn't just know her way around the classroom; she's familiar with the challenges educators face at every level. Her mission is to remind teachers of how important they are in the lives of children, highlighting both learning theory as well as tools for communication. In this session, Dr. Silver offers surprising new findings about fundamental ways we can change our teaching practices to help kids become self-motivated. Come prepared to have your thinking challenged and leave with strategies that help learners develop internal motivation and resiliency.
A Hippopotamus Wouldn't Fit On the Page and Other Reasons That Mo Willems Writes About Pigeons
In the last decade, Mo Willems has published a multitude of eccentric picture books and early readers to great acclaim. His work has won many major awards, including the Caldecott Honor, Geisel Medal, Geisel Honor, and Carnegie Medal, in addition to not winning even more prestigious awards such as the Nobel Prize for Awesomeness, the Tour de France, and Employee of the Month (February). His latest books include Don't Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book! and That Is Not a Good Idea! Mo lives in a small village in Massachusetts where he never spends time writing summaries of upcoming speeches.
Mayor Julián Castro
A 38-year-old San Antonio native, Mayor Julián Castro is the youngest mayor of a Top 50 American city. In 2010, under his leadership, the city opened cafécollege, a one-stop center offering high-quality guidance on college admissions, financial aid, and standardized test preparation to any student in the San Antonio area. In its first year, cafécollege served more than 5,000 area students, spurring an expansion of the facility in 2011. In November 2012, Mayor Castro led a voter-approved public referendum that will expand high-quality Pre-K services to more than 22,000 San Antonio four-year-olds over the next eight years. He is married to Erica Lira Castro, an elementary school teacher, and they are the proud parents of Carina, born in 2009.