Grade Levels: K-3

This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about Cynthia Rylant. It is designed to complement the Cynthia Rylant topic page on BrainPOP Jr.

Author studies are a fun way to get children interested in reading and dive deeper into an author’s entire work. Author studies allow children to develop research skills and learn about an author’s personal history and his or her creative process and style. Furthermore, author studies provide ample opportunities for children to read and write and think about literature in different ways. Cynthia Rylant is a prolific children’s author who has written books across several different genres, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and has won numerous awards.

Cynthia Rylant was born in Virginia in 1954. When she was four years old, her parents divorced and she and her mother moved to the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia to live with her grandparents. The town had no electricity or running water, and many of Rylant’s books are about life in the mountains. As a child, Rylant did not read much because her town had few bookstores or libraries. Instead, she spent most of her childhood outdoors, playing imaginary games. After graduating from college, she got a job as a librarian and was surrounded by good books. She was transferred to children’s books and she began reading the books she had missed as a child. Then, she decided to write her own children’s books and launched her career.

Her first book was When I was Young in the Mountains, which is based on her childhood experiences of growing up in the Appalachian Mountains. In the book, the main character gets water from a well, visits the swimming hole, and stops into a country store. The book received an American Book Award in 1982. Her book Missing May is about girl who loses a close family member. Rylant’s father passed away before she got to know him, and Missing May draws from many of the thoughts and feelings she experienced. The book received a Newbery Medal in 1993. Many of Rylant’s books are based on her own childhood memories as well as experiences that many children go through, such as the heartbreak of losing a pet, the excitement of sending and receiving Valentines, and the chaos and fun of a big family trip. When the Relatives Came is about a family that drives across the mountains to a big (repetition), rowdy family reunion.

Night in the Country is about the sights and sounds of the country at night. In this book, Rylant uses specific details and descriptive language to bring her story to life. She discusses feeling the cool night air, hearing the chirping crickets and hooting owls, and describes the thump of apples falling off of trees. Remind your children that a detail is a piece of information that describes something. Writers use specific details to help convey their message to readers and help readers make pictures in their mind as they read. Rylant also writes with the senses to bring her stories to life. Review with your children that the senses include seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting. Writing with the senses help draw in readers to the story and experience the story at a deeper level. We recommend watching the Writing with the Senses movie together as a review.

Author studies help children grasp a deeper understanding of reading and writing and inspire them to read even more. Encourage your children to spend time reading each day and help them develop a lifelong love for books.