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Books mark big week at Willis in Lakewood Ranch

Authors try to inspire students during Read Across America Week.

Mary Uihlein chats with Willis student Brandon Spofford about one of her "Hello Little Owl" books.
Mary Uihlein chats with Willis student Brandon Spofford about one of her "Hello Little Owl" books.
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Mary Uihlein had finished reading to the combined fifth-grade classes of Stacy Galiardo and Laura Martin at Lakewood Ranch's Robert Willis Elementary and was preparing to pack up her eight "Hello Little Owl" series books.

Uihlein had appeared as part of Read Across America Week which on this day, March 2, was the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. The purpose was to get children excited about reading books, and perhaps writing them.

While Uihlein might have wondered if she had provided any excitement to the children in terms of writing, that was answered before she could get out the door.

"A cute, little girl came up with a story she had started writing," said Uihlein, who lives with her husband Jamie in Lido Key. "It was an adorable story about three different kitty cats."

Uihlein can't remember if she had any similar inspiration when she attended school, but she does remember how much she loved reading to her son, James.

That was evident on March 2 as her voice fluctuated when she read about each and every one of her characters. Sometimes her voice would drop lower to bass and sometimes higher to a soprano. At times, depending on the character, she would add some Texas twang.

"My son used to love that," she said of her reading style.

Did the students love it as well?

They obviously were paying attention. International best-selling author D.D. Scott had joined Uihlein in the class and after the students had heard one of the Hello Little Owl books, Scott stood at the front of the room with a marker and pad, ready to take down the students' remarks about the characters in the book.

The students were asked to talk about the characters. Every hand in the room shot toward the sky.

"I was impressed how they interacted," Uihlein said of the students. "They were paying attention. These kids had a job to do, to pick out character traits, and they did."

The students could be reading more of Uihlein's "Hello Little Owl" series in the future (all the books can be found by going to Scott, who has written 38 books and has more than 1.1 million downloads online, is coaching Uihlein to help her broaden her audience.

"Oh my gosh, Mary's art," Scott said about Uihlein's books. "She can not only tell the story, she can illustrate it. It's phenomenal."

Scott, who teaches a seminar on writing books and getting them published the second Thursday of each month from 7 to 9 p.m. at Four Pillars in Lakewood Ranch, said it wouldn't be surprising if one of the students on March 2 becomes an author.

"The beautiful thing about writing is that you never are too young or too old," said Scott, who as a fifth-grader remembers writing a story about Charlie Brown falling in love with Lucy. "And it's so inspiring for these students to see a career field they never thought about. One writing assignment can turn into a lifetime adventure."


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