Articles

John Becker (children's author)

Artist's Narrative

 

Dr. John Becker has been an elementary school teacher, college professor of teacher education, assistant to Jack Hanna at the Columbus Zoo, Director of The International Society for Wild Cats, and is now a full-time freelance writer of books for children.  He has presented hundreds of programs across the United States and Canada, appeared on Good Morning America, and many other radio and television programs.  His latest book, Frenemies for Life, the first book published by the Columbus Zoo, went to #1 on Amazon.com’s Best Selling List of Books for Children in 2011, and his book, Wild Cats Past & Present, won a Voya Award in 2009 as one of the best nonfiction books for middle school students.  In addition to his 28 books, he has also written for Highlights for Children, Boy's Life, Zoolife, Chickadee, Hopscotch for Girls, Wildlife Conservation, Wild Outdoor World as well as a number of other magazines. Dr. Becker has also taught writing at the Thurber Writing Academy for the past 15 years, and he is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

 

Availability

 

Upon request.

 

Programs Available

 

Frenemies for Life (Grade levels K-8)
“The fastest land animal on Earth is in danger, and some special dogs are coming to the rescue. The first book published by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (for grade levels 2-7 Aug. 2010), Frenemies for Life, describes a very unusual approach to saving an animal from extinction - by using one of its natural enemies to help! Cheetahs are hunted by farmers who feel the wild cats are a threat to their herds. The Cheetah Conservation Fund discovered that a special breed of dog, the Anatolian shepherd, can protect herds by chasing off hungry cheetahs. With these dogs around, farmers no longer need to kill the cats. To educate the public about this wonderful program, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (Ohio) has raised four `frenemies’ together: two cheetah cubs and two Anatolian shepherd  pups. These Animal Ambassadors have appeared on television and in classrooms across the country, and kids can get to know them in this photo-filled book.”

Activity:
During the opening assembly, Dr. Becker relates the “story behind the story” of how he came to write Frenemies for Life, incorporating storytelling, video of his field research, readings from the book, and a question and answer segment.  Thereafter, smaller group sessions focus on the nonfiction writing process as the author guides students through the steps he follows in creating award winning nonfiction books, including a video safari of his most recent trip to Africa to do field research.

Activity Options:

Frenemies for Life
  • Duration: one day to one week
  • Fees: $800/ day or $3,500/week
  • Requirements: Multipurpose room & library. Mileage will be added for programs outside of Franklin and Delaware Counties.

 

 

Mugambi's Journey (Grade levels K-3)
A picture book published by Gingham Dog Press for grade levels K-3. "When Mugambi, a cheetah cub, leads his young sisters from the safety of their den to find their mother, he discovers that exploring the harsh wilderness of the Serengeti Plains in Africa is both frightening and amazing. Drawn by curiosity to the unfamiliar beauty of these new surroundings, young Mugambi soon learns the importance of relying on instinct when faced with dangerous enemies and situations."

Activity: Dr. Becker will discuss the creative writing process and the way in which a fictional story can be created from an active imagination and personal experience. The steps in the fictional writing process will discussed as Dr. Becker leads students through those steps in creating their own stories. He will also read from his book to illustrate how the various elements of creative writing are utilized in the writing process. Storytelling will be used to convey the sense of discovery when traveling to exotic locations. Video from Dr. Becker’s most recent trip to Africa will also be shown.  This program may be combined with the Frenemies for Lifeprogram.

Activity Options:

Mugambi's Journey
  • Duration: one day to one week
  • Fees: $800/ day or $3,500/ week
  • Requirements: Multipurpose room & library. Mileage will be added for programs outside of Franklin and Delaware Counties.

 

 

Wild Cats Past & Present (Grade levels 3-8)
Wild Cats Past & Present (Darby Creek Publishing, Plain City, Ohio), was named to VOYA’s (Voice of Youth Advocacy) 2009 Honor List as one of the top nonfiction books for middle school/junior high school readers, and was also a Junior Library Guild Premiere Selection.  Wild Cats goes continent by continent across the world, detailing information about wild cats in each region.  Beautiful full-color photographs give readers a visual treat.  All thirty-six species of wild cats make an appearance, with the spotlight on some of the most amazing creatures on Earth, along with a few of their ferocious ancestors.  Categorized by geographic region, the text shows how felines have adapted to their environment—from the tigers of Siberia to the rare, tiny sand cats that hide in the caves and boroughs of northern Africa.  Yet despite the survival instincts that have kept felines around since the days of the saber-tooth cats, many of these wild cats are among the most endangered animals in the world.  As the earth’s human population increases, fewer and fewer open spaces remain for wildlife.  Wild Cats: Past & Present places special emphasis on the ever-shrinking habitat of felines and how conservation groups are working to protect them.

Activity: Wild cats are mysterious creatures that are disappearing at a rapid rate.  This program focuses on the plight of these magnificent animals and the nonfiction writing process from A to Z.  During the opening assembly, Dr. Becker will discuss how he creates nonfiction stories from a basic idea to a finished piece of writing. Storytelling will help illustrate the way in which ideas are found, and how those ideas become nonfiction books. Dr. Becker will read from his book Wild Cats: Past & Present, and show a short video about some of the field research he has conducted around the world on wild cats. Students will also be given the opportunity to ask questions based on their study of the book. Grade-level presentations will take students through the steps that Dr. Becker follows in doing his library research, and how he interviews experts in the field of wildlife conservation. He will read more sections from the book, and once again, give students the opportunity to ask questions about the writing process.  This program may be combined with the Frenemies for Life program.

Activity Options:

Wild Cats Past & Present
  • Duration: one day to one week
  • Fees: $800/ day or $3,500/ week
  • Requirements: Multipurpose room & library. Mileage will be added for programs outside of Franklin and Delaware Counties.

 

 

Seedling Books (Grade levels K-3)
The Seedling books (8 books) are written for beginning readers with colorful illustrations and lots of factual information. "Seedling Readers are little books that fit comfortably in small hands. They contain print that is clear and bold, with ample spacing between words. Colorful, expressive illustrations or photographs clearly support the text."

Activity: During an opening assembly Dr. Becker will use storytelling to illustrate the way in which story ideas can be generated from personal experiences in the natural world. He will also read from his book(s), and show a video about the animals in his books. Students will be given the opportunity to ask questions about the books. Grade-level presentations take students through the steps that the author follows in doing research and writing nonfiction books. Dr. Becker will also read from the book(s), show video of the field research he has done to learn about the animals, and give students the opportunity to ask questions about the writing process.  This program may be combined with the Frenemies for Life program.

Books include: Hawks, Owls, Camels, Giraffes, Scarlet Macaws, Snow Leopards, Cheetahs, Kangaroos

Activity Options:

Seedling Books
  • Duration: one day to one week
  • Fees: $800/ day or $3,500/ week
  • Requirements: Multipurpose room & library. Mileage will be added for programs outside of Franklin and Delaware Counties.

 

 

Nonfiction Writing Workshops (Grade levels K-6)
A Nonfiction Writing Workshop program is geared toward helping students discover the enjoyment of nonfiction writing.  Participants will improve their investigative skills, and discover how to share what they learn through their writing.  These workshops have proven successful in motivating reluctant writers to become enthusiastic learners/writers.  Programs are ideal for students in grades K-6.

Activity: Prior to a Nonfiction Writing Workshop, students complete a library research project based on an animal they will see on their “trip” to a chosen destination.  During the opening assembly Dr. Becker utilizes storytelling to show students how personal experiences in the natural world can be the basis for a personal experience narrative of their own.  The session includes a writing exercise in which students write about their experiences focusing on the details of the experience and using lots of description.  The session concludes with students sharing their writing.  Within grade-level sessions, students travel to their chosen destination (i.e. An African Safari, Mysteries of the Amazon, Exploring the Coral Reef, Adventures in the Rainforests, and Discovering Endangered American Animals) via video.  The sights and sounds encountered on the trip, and the information collected during the library research pre-visit assignment, will form the basis for the day’s major writing experience.  After the writing session, students will have the opportunity to share what they have written once again.

Activity Options:

Nonfiction Writing Workshops
  • Duration: one day to one week
  • Fees: $800/ day or $3,500/ week
  • Requirements: Multipurpose room & library. Mileage will be added for programs outside of Franklin and Delaware Counties.

 

 



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 The gold star indicates this artist has participated in at least one professional development workshop concerning the alignment of their planned arts activities with state of Ohio content standards in arts and other academic subject areas.

 



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