Nikola-Lisa prioritizes his interests as storytelling, music and writing, in that order. The author of 20 children’s books and a former second grade teacher, Nikola-Lisa is a man with many stories to tell, and he likes to share them with an enthusiasm that invites young readers to not just relate to the stories, but be inspired to go beyond the pages of the books and relate the stories to their own lives.
In January, the BAPA Education Committee will bring W. Nikola-Lisa to neighborhood public schools through the Authors in the School (AIS) program, and each class will get to meet the author and receive a copy of his book, “How We Are Smart,” and participate in a one-day workshop.
The book is a collection of short biographies of successful people – some of them who we all know, and some who we may never have heard of. Each of these people is smart is a different way, and, as written by Nikola-Lisa, the stories encourage children to identify and appreciate their own unique way of being smart.
Nikola-Lisa got the idea for the book when attending a lecture by Howard Gardner on his theory of multiple intelligences in 2000. Nikola-Lisa said he felt a connection to the theory, which sets out eight ways in which people are smart – body, logic, music, nature, people, picture, self and word. The different ways of being smart influence people to become athletes, artists, scientists, activists, musicians, lawyer, explorers, writers and more. The author spent two years researching and writing to make sure “How We Are Smart” includes the success stories of inspiring people of all genders and racial groups.
In his Author in the Schools workshops at neighborhood schools, Nikola-Lisa, will use music, storytelling and more to help 3rd graders develop reading, writing and storytelling skills. “My goal is to guide students through my writing experiences in a logical, sequential way so students have a broad understanding of what an author does . . . and what makes a good story,” Nikola-Lisa said. Participating elementary schools are Barnard, Clissold, Esmond, Kellogg, Sutherland and Vanderpoel.
“How We Are Smart” has been recognized with the Christopher Award and Gustavus Myers Book Award, and is recommended by the Great Lakes Great Books Award List, School Library Journal Book Review and New York Times Book Review. Nikola-Lisa grew up in southern Texas and currently resides in Chicago. He began teaching in elementary schools in the late 1970s and then went on to get his doctorate. He was a professor of education at National-Louis University and currently spends a great deal of time visiting classrooms as an Author in the Schools.
Pictures in “How We Are Smart” are by award-winning illustrator Sean Qualls who draws his inspiration from many sources including childhood memories, movies, television, nature, music, and literature. Qualls lives in Brooklyn.