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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Traveling In-Word

Lisa Bullard at the Alphabet Forest - Minnesota State FairFor this week’s writ­ing road trip, I jour­ney to the Alpha­bet For­est.

For those who haven’t had the plea­sure of vis­it­ing, the Alpha­bet For­est is the remark­able cre­ation of author/illustrator/innovator Debra Frasi­er, who through pure pas­sion and per­sis­tence, man­aged to carve out an oasis for words in the midst of the con­sum­able crazi­ness that is the Min­neso­ta State Fair.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the State Fair. I just don’t think of it as a place to sit qui­et­ly and muse deeply. And yet, Debra’s love of fair let­ter­ing start­ed her on a jour­ney that led to cre­at­ing this enchant­ed place: in the midst of sun­burn, sore feet, and stom­ach aches, here is a cor­ner where there’s shade and plen­ty of places to sit down and peo­ple who offer you fun for free. But bet­ter yet, there are words enough to stuff your imag­i­na­tion even more than those mini donuts have already stuffed your stom­ach.

One year, I watched as my niece ignored every oth­er fair offer­ing (okay, with the excep­tion of that giant brown­ie) as she obses­sive­ly filled out her Fab­u­lous Fair Alpha­bet Game Card. Anoth­er year, I had the plea­sure of serv­ing as author-in-res­i­dence at the Alpha­bet For­est for a day. I worked with oodles of kids who set­tled in at my table and prompt­ly became utter­ly absorbed in writ­ing or draw­ing. It didn’t mat­ter that the parade was pass­ing them by (lit­er­al­ly!) and that there were still corn­dogs and cot­ton can­dy to be eat­en: when giv­en the option, their num­ber one pri­or­i­ty was to lose them­selves in the cre­ative act.

It remind­ed me, all over again, why I do what I do: giv­ing kids the gift of words and sto­ry is like hand­ing them the mag­ic key to life. Even kids who think they hate read­ing and writ­ing can be won over eas­i­ly once you find the right key for them. A for­est full of words can beat a clutch of corn­dogs any day.

If you’re near Min­neso­ta, make sure to vis­it the fair and be inspired with ideas for how to cre­ate an Alpha­bet For­est in your own class­room or din­ing room. If not, there are a myr­i­ad of amaz­ing down­load­able resources to help you, start­ing at this link and mov­ing on from there to Debra Frasier’s web­site.

You’ll be mighty glad you made the jour­ney.

2 Responses to Traveling In-Word

  1. David LaRochelle August 18, 2017 at 11:59 am #

    I was skep­ti­cal at first, but when I vol­un­teered at the inau­gur­al year of the Alpha­bet For­est in 2010, I was amazed (and delight­ed) to see kids so engrossed in the lit­er­a­cy activ­i­ties at this cor­ner of the Fair. You are absolute­ly right, Lisa; kids are total­ly absorbed with the projects, books, activ­i­ties found at the Alpha­bet For­est. Like many oth­ers, I have made the Alpha­bet For­est a State Fair tra­di­tion. I’ll be vol­un­teer­ing there on the first day of the Fair, Sept 24.

    • Lisa Bullard August 18, 2017 at 11:03 pm #

      I hope you have a great day, David! Vis­it the But­ter Heads for me!

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