JUNCTION CITY, Kan. – Award-winning author Jane Kurtz, a former ten-year Kansas resident who has published more than 40 books for young readers, on Thursday will visit Sheridan Elementary School to help students and educators see the ways that reading and writing can make a difference in their lives.
A decade ago, Kurtz created a character for the American Girl Doll of the Year series, Lanie, who goes on a quest to save monarch butterflies.
“That was the beginning of my interest in citizen science,” Kurtz said. “Seeing that all of us can do a little part to save birds and bees and butterflies and other humble creatures that make our world so wonderful.”
Her two latest picture books – a nonfiction called “What Do They Do With All That Poo?” and a fiction romp about chickens loose in an urban neighborhood similar to the one where she now lives – both help children celebrate wildlife close to home. A novel for young readers set in Kansas, Anna Way Here, was inspired by her years in Kansas and discovering lavender and emu as a new part of farm life. Another novel, Planet Jupiter, shows experimenting she has done with her own backyard habitat in Portland, Oregon, where she was born and now lives.
“My dad grew up on a farm in eastern Oregon,” Kurtz said. “My husband grew up on a farm in Kansas. Now it feels like my turn to learn about soil and compost, plants and animals.”
Kurtz loves helping young people be more engaged, sometimes through laughter, with science, the Earth, and fellow young readers around the world.
Some of Kurtz’s books celebrate her childhood growing up in Ethiopia, where she now does volunteer work for literacy alongside several Kansas educators, including former Sheridan Elementary School Librarian Carol Settgast. Settgast later worked with students at Sheridan to write one of the first colorful, playful books in Kurtz’s Ready Set Go Books project.
“Books like that are the first chance a lot of children in Ethiopia have to read in their own language,” Kurtz said. “I learned to read in Ethiopia. Nothing makes me happier than having a chance to share a love of reading with children here in the U.S. and children in Ethiopia. I always hope to leave a school with a bigger vision of just how powerful reading and writing can be.”