Princeton and Beatrice Rafferty welcome new-to-IRW author and illustrator Russ Cox

IRW was thrilled to welcome Russ Cox to our roster of authors and illustrators, and he had incredible first visits to Princeton Elementary School and Beatrice Rafferty School at Sipayik on November 9 and 10.

Upon arrival at Princeton Elementary, Principal Charity Williams and IRW’s site coordinator Jodi Deacon welcomed us and led us to the gym, where 7th and 8th grade students played a Faraway Friends book trailer for Russ and performed a short skit. The students had made spaceships and a rocket large enough for Russ to fit inside.
Russ led writing and illustration workshops (or read-alouds) with all grades. When first and second graders came into their workshop, they were wearing cardboard box helmets! Fifth and sixth graders had studied planets, created posters, and written stories about going to Jupiter (like Sheldon hopes to do in Faraway Friends). One student in the third-fourth grade group said, “I want to be an author now. This just made my whole day!”

During lunch, ELA students presented six-word stories about Faraway Friends using Google Slides.

All in all, children were excited to have Russ at their school, to have his guidance during illustrating workshops, and to look through the numerous sketchbooks he brought that document his own illustrating process.

Three students in the Gr. 7/8 group said after Russ’s visit that it had made them want to “fill up my sketchbook,” “draw all my thoughts out on a sketchbook,” and “write books and draw more.”

“Welcome Russ Cox and IRW!” Such a friendly greeting posted to the wall the next day at Beatrice Rafferty School in Sipayik. Younger students who attended Russ’s presentation and workshops wore space helmets made out of paper bags, and so did Russ, when he read his story!

In the hallway, two bulletin boards proudly displayed photos of each student wearing their paper bag helmets, too. Their teacher said, “I loved that he put on his helmet while reading to the children! They loved that, especially because they were wearing theirs!”

As the younger students participated in an illustration workshop with Russ, we overheard a truly moving exchange between two students. After one said, “I can’t do this,” his friend replied, “Yes, you can – Don’t give up on yourself, man.”

After Russ’s visit, some classes are extending their learning by reading more books that Russ has illustrated, and over 20 students said on surveys that the visit inspired them to draw, draw MORE, and become illustrators. That’s what we love to hear!

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