Book Article

Hey Teacher, Tell Us A Story

'My Son John' author Jim Aylesworth -- The ''Hush Up!'' writer makes reading a noisy activity and draws inspiration from his years as an educator

Even before his first book, Hush Up!, was published in 1980, Jim Aylesworth had an audience for his work. As a first-grade teacher whose favorite part of the day was reading aloud to his 6-year-old students, Aylesworth decided he ''wanted to be a larger part of the book world than just a reader'' and started testing out his own story ideas.

''My students gave me a great education. They made it very clear what works — rhythm, rhyme, repetition, noise, and a certain gross factor,'' explains Aylesworth, now in his 23rd year of teaching in a Chicago suburb.

Aylesworth learned his lessons well. His 18 books, especially 1992's best-selling Old Black Fly, are truly a celebration of sound. ''Most of my books are meant to be read out loud to a group of children, and My Son John should really be sung,'' says the 51-year-old author, revealing the strong, simple voice of a folksinger as he demonstrates with the title verse.

''Books that go for the sound are the ones that kids will sit for even on an indoor-recess day, when it's raining out and they're wired,'' says Aylesworth. ''When they scream for me to read again, I know it's working.''

Originally posted Mar 11, 1994 Published in issue #213 Mar 11, 1994 Order article reprints
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