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South Valley Journal

Bestselling author Brandon Mull ignites students’ imaginations

Dec 16, 2021 10:32AM ● By Jet Burnham

Students make creative (and funny) suggestions as they help Brandon Mull create the details of a new world during an assembly at Southland Elementary. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

In an assembly where he shared details of his personal journey from an imaginative kid to a world famous author, New York Times bestselling author Brandon Mull encouraged students to develop their imaginations and to pursue creative outlets.

“I’m a huge believer in imagination,” Mull told students. He was shocked when his first series, “Fablehaven,” became popular world-wide. “It shows me that you never know how far your ideas might go if you choose to share.”

Mull has done thousands of assemblies—a few hundred each year for the past 16 years— with the purpose of encouraging reluctant readers to get excited about reading. He loves to hear that he’s made a difference in kids’ lives.

“When I hear that the books helped get somebody reading, that's the home run,” he said. “That's one of the things I'm most hoping to accomplish is write a book people will read, on purpose, for fun. The other home run I get is when a whole family says they read it together and they bonded over it.”

In November, Mull held assemblies at Oquirrh Hills Middle and Southland Elementary in which he encouraged students to exercise their imagination regularly and gave advice to those interested in writing their own stories. When an OHMS student asked for advice in overcoming writer's block, his advice was to add more trouble to the plot. It’s a tactic that has worked for Mull—many of his books are about kids who get into trouble and have to figure a way out of it.

Mull’s books are popular with students and faculty, said OHMS school librarian Paula Butterfield. Over 300 students requested to attend the assembly, which was optional. She said it was a special opportunity for fans of Mull, especially those who got their books signed and took selfies with the author.

“Brandon's presentation was very well done,” Butterfield said. “I especially liked that he talked with students about how important it is to have a creative outlet, so their imaginations don't become stagnant. He also emphasized that reading can be a powerful tool used to stimulate their imaginations.”

OHMS teachers provide regular opportunities for students to express their creativity, said seventh grade English teacher Melissa Stewart.

“Usually at the end of each quarter, we will have some type of creative extension project that allows students to apply what we have learned in a new and interesting way,” she said. “This really helps to solidify the concepts because the students get to express themselves and their personal understanding.”

Seventh-graders learn  various types of writing, including narratives. They also study legends, myths and fairy tales, which Mull told the students he borrows from to develop characters in his books.

Mull’s books are also popular with Southland Elementary students.

“Brandon’s books are among the most consistently popular books in the school library, in classroom libraries, and for use by teachers as a read aloud,” Principal Garret York said.

Southland students are exposed to a wide variety of books, authors and genres. Students participate in Battle of the Books and a school-wide reading program.

“In addition to building their motivation to read, our new Walk-to-Read program and other literacy initiatives are helping to better prepare students to tackle even the toughest book,” York said. “By making reading less intimidating and helping students build the skills they need to become effective readers, they are less hesitant to pick up a large book that they may have been interested in but too scared to pick up previously.”

During his assembly, Mull encouraged students to use their imaginations to create new worlds and stories, which was an exciting idea for many of them.

“I like that students seem to have gained a new desire to build their own writing skills, something that is more difficult to motivate a student to do than read,” York said after the assembly. “I'm excited to see the results.”