Some concerned over author's visit to schools

Later this month, area elementary schools will host a writing workshop with a children's author, a component of a longstanding partnership with the Williamsburg Regional Library.

But some people aren't too happy about this year's choice.

Dana Alison Levy has written two books with a third coming out in May. All three spin tales of family adventures, and each family shares a similar trait: same-sex parents.

Williamsburg-James City County Schools spokeswoman Betsy Overkamp-Smith said a few concerned community members have reached out to Stonehouse Elementary about her visit there on March 29.

The concerned parties have not been parents, and as of Monday, no family had asked to have their child opt out of the visit, Overkamp-Smith said.

Levy will stop into each of the nine elementary schools over three days, March 27-29.

"Typically we do not seek parental approval to have an author come to school and speak to students," Overkamp-Smith said. "If a parent is concerned about anything at the school, they should contact the school and share their concerns with the principal, and they can work to address concerns on any topic."

The partnership with the regional library has brought authors to W-JCC schools for 14 years, said Sandra Towers, the library's youth services librarian.

"She's an author of one of those on our Battle of the Books list," Towers said. "We were excited to bring Dana as our visiting author because most of the schools are participating, so we know that students will be familiar with her work, which makes for a better experience for the kids."

Towers said all but Stonehouse is enrolled in the Battle of the Books, a competition where students in fourth and fifth grades read 12 books and go head-to-head with their peers on quizzes about them.

Levy's "The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher" is included on that list this year.

"The family is in many ways a typical family experience," Towers said. "They have four kids, the crazy things that happen ... happen to them, too. It's never about them having a family that would be considered non-traditional; it's just that they have a loving family."

When choosing books for the battle of the books, which is ultimately why Levy was invited to visit, Towers said a team of librarians look for positively reviewed books that appeal to the age group.

She said diversity is consideration, too. She listed diversity in genre, in the culture and race of the characters, in reading level and format. Towers said the orientation of the characters is not really considered when picking books.

In the two-and-a-half years she's been organizing the visits, Towers said there hasn't been any backlash from the community.

Levy said she hasn't experienced any families dodging her schools visits, either.

"It is certainly not up to me to tell parents how to raise their children," Levy said in a statement to the Gazette. "But as a parent and an author, I do believe that books open windows into new perspectives, as well as provide mirrors to allow all kids to find themselves."

Levy said she plans to talk about her writing process, revising and editing her work, where her ideas come from.

"I show silly photos of my cats and tell them that first drafts are always terrible," Levy said. "And finally, I discuss the importance of books in opening up my world."

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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