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Author-illustrator inspires students during Cherry Creek Reads week

Cherry Creek Reads 2022Hannah Salyer researched her audience before she walked into the gym at Aspen Crossing Elementary School on March 8.

“Hello Marmots!” she said to the assembled students. “Does anyone know what a group of Marmots is called?”

The marmot is the Aspen Crossing mascot and Salyer, the author and illustrator of a non-fiction book called Packs: Strength in Numbers, told her audience that a group of marmots is called a colony.

Packs is the featured book for Cherry Creek Reads 2022, a districtwide celebration of reading, going on this week across the district. As part of Cherry Creek Reads, Salyer is visiting several Cherry Creek schools to share her experience as a writer and an artist.

“I take them through the book and I give them other facts about the animals they’re looking at,” Salyer said. “I ask them questions about wildlife in the Colorado area. They surprise me with how much they know about animals and wildlife and nature.”

She also talks with the students about the importance of conducting research before writing a book or a paper or a presentation.

“We’re in this moment where sometimes it’s hard to tell what is real and what is not,” she said. “The internet makes things very confusing, so I like to talk about the research process I go through to find credible sources and get information that is valid.”

Many students, including Giselle Zepeda, a seventh-grade student at Sky Vista Middle School, read Packs in preparation for Salyer’s visit.

“I read it twice, once with my art class and once with my language arts class,” Zepeda said. “Packs - It reminds me of my family… We have our troubles, but we always stick together.”

Zepeda and the students in her art class made their own collages after learning how Salyer uses collages for her illustrations.

“I like how she made collages,” said Micah Mayer, a fourth-grader at Aspen Crossing. “She did the coloring first and then she traced over it and I really liked that.”

“I really love the art,” Sky Vista seventh-grader Aidan Woller said. “It really inspired me to show that some of these animals are together and are stronger together.”

“Read Together, Better Together” is the theme for Cherry Creek Reads week, which is now in its fourth year. Reading is critical to academic success, but it can also increase empathy, ease depression, reduce stress and even improve sleep. One of the goals of Cherry Creek Reads is to encourage students, staff and families to read for pleasure, in addition to reading for school or work.

“It’s been such an incredible experience to come here and see the signs at all the schools that say ‘Read Together, Better Together,’” Salyer said. “Everyone’s been bubbling with energy and that’s really special to see.”