comments

Roseville teacher publishes new children’s book

O’Hair teaches writing by example
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
-A +A

For more information on Margaret O’Hair or her book, “Sweet Baby Feet,” visit www.margaretohair.com.

When first graders in teacher Margaret O’Hair’s ocean-themed classroom have reading time, they escape to “Book Beach” to select a piece of literature of their choosing.

They spread out on this patch of blue carpet and read Dr. Seuss, or a book about farm animals or science fiction, and their teacher reads right alongside them.

“You have to role model reading and role model writing,” O’Hair said. “That’s what I think.”

The Thomas Jefferson Elementary School teacher models writing by being the author of five children’s books. The latest, “Sweet Baby Feet,” was released by MacMillan Publishers in November. It’s illustrated by Tracy Dockray, the artist of the current “Beverly Cleary” novels.

“I don’t write full time,” O’Hair said. “It’s like a garden. I just tend to it and keep it growing.”

The Rocklin resident also helps grow a love of reading and writing among children at her school through the Writing Camp she runs for kids in first through fifth grade.

The optional camp takes place for 20 minutes during lunchtime a few times a month and about 50 students participate. They typically get to free write about whatever they want.

Third-grader Ella Bloomberg wrote a short story about German shepherd spy dogs living in an abandoned building in New York who are on a case to find a missing cat.

Second-grader Sofia Martos wrote that she wished her notebook was magic and anything she drew would come to life. But, then she pondered: What would happen if she drew something scary?

Their teacher, meanwhile, helps them find their voice.

“You just need to give them the key to unlock their voice,” O’Hair said.

When camper and third-grader Elizabeth Werley visits her older brother in Los Angeles, she will stare out the window of his apartment and describe what she sees.

“You get to write anything you want,” she said of camp. “Sometimes I write what Ms. O’Hair tells me and other times I like to express my feelings on the page.”

Campers recently wrote Christmas cards for military personnel overseas, thanking them for their service and wishing them happy holidays. At the end of the academic year, the camp publishes an anthology of student writing.

Some campers are also in O’Hair’s class, where they learn about language arts in creative and thematic ways. For instance, they learned about compound words — a grade-level standard — by writing each part of the words on a pair of mittens, physically taking the two parts and putting them together.

“It’s hands-on learning, no pun intended,” O’Hair said.

They work on metaphors, poems and personification, and the teacher urges the students to tap into their senses and emotions when they write. One way she does this is by playing music in the background.

“Music is so important to access their brain and heart, and when they write, you want them to access their heart,” she said.

The students also make graphic organizers, which 6-yearold Katelyn Via describes as “when you write words in a big circle in the middle and the little circles are where you write what it’s about.”

As for O’Hair, she’s continuing to write children’s books and young adult novels, and in the process she hopes to inspire her young students with dreams of what they can do when they grow up.

 “I want to write children’s books like Ms. O’Hair,” Katelyn said.