Anthony D. Fredericks—call him Tony, please—is Professor of Education at York College, Pennsylvania, but he doesn’t stay in the ivory tower with all the big people. At least once a week he makes it a point to spend time with little people too. “It wouldn’t be right for me to be teaching teachers how to teach if I didn’t stay in close touch with kids,” he says.
And when the kids learn that Tony is the author of 121 published books, over three dozen of them being children’s picture books, one of their frequent questions is “Why do you write so much?” Tony loves that question, because the answer is that he writes because he wants to learn.
“The old saw about writing is that you should only write about what you know,” he says. “But I like to write about stuff I don’t know, because that motivates me to learn and find the answers and then share what I’ve learned. And that’s exciting!”
He takes special pleasure in writing for children. “If I can write in a way that explains something and have it make sense to an eight-year-old, then I’ve enhanced my own learning and also enhanced the reader’s learning.” He wants kids to open their eyes and all their senses and discover the natural world around them. “I’m always looking for ways to use a vacant lot, a backyard, a stream, as a learning resource.”
As a teacher, Tony would take children around the playground or to a city park and discover a bird’s nest or an animal track, and then ask questions. “I would ask, ‘Why do you think this is happening? What do you think will happen next?’ And then the kids would have a reason to go out and find an answer, one that is meaningful and personally satisfying to them.”
Each of Tony’s six books published by Dawn features the exploration of some small habitat—the creatures to be found under a rock, on a flower, for example, or in his newest book, the creatures found around an old log. The books all started with a question asked by a boy in Texas: “Are animal communities the same as people communities?” The books point out that we all may be different but we also share commonalities, too. They illustrate how animals live together and function effectively in an ecosystem, because they have established relationships and interdependencies on others. And by implication, he says, “so it can be with humans as well.”
“It’s not necessary to take a long trip. Nature is right under our feet. We may have to lift a rock, peek behind a tree, or look around a backyard bush, but nature is there, waiting to be discovered and waiting to show us an important lesson.”