Marlboro teacher enjoys dual role as children’s author

MARLBORO – A sixth grade language arts teacher in Marlboro brought the story of a little girl with a big imagination to first grade pupils when she visited the Marlboro Elementary School.

Lauren Tortora has taught language arts to sixth-graders at the Marlboro Memorial Middle School for 14 years. She wrote and illustrated her first children’s book, “Monsters on My Mind,” that was released in September.

“Monsters on My Mind” is about a little girl with a big imagination. A description of the book states that “Lily is excited about practicing and using her imagination in silly and creative ways until she creates some monsters. They get her into lots of trouble.

“She can’t eat, she can’t sleep, and she can’t get rid of the crazy monsters that seem to have moved into her room. Will she be able to overcome her fears and continue to create pictures in her mind?

“Or will she decide the only answer is to get rid of her imagination? This story celebrates imagination and reminds children that they have the power to overcome their fears.”

Tortora recently visited the Marlboro Elementary School to read to three classes of first grade pupils. After reading her book, Tortora led the children in drawing a monster.

She gave the children a paper that had monster legs drawn on it and asked the youngsters to suggest features the monster might have. As the children offered their ideas, Tortora drew them on her paper and the children followed along.

Asked about her process for writing the book, Tortora said, “I thought about myself as a child having a vivid imagination and being scared of things. Children think that things they imagine are real.

“To them, those things feel real, but it’s really just their imagination. It’s a wonderful thing, even though at that age it may be something scary to them. Over the years I wrote it in my head. Eventually I wrote it down. I worked on some of the illustrations and 11 years later I finished it,” she said.

As for being a teacher who has authored a book and now reads it to children, Tortora said, “I was asked recently if this feels surreal and I said it feels like I’m doing my job. This is what I do with my students, I read to them and talk about the book with them.

“It’s fun for me. I think going to libraries and coming to school is interesting. I get a lot of feedback from children about the book. I like hearing them talk about it; it gives me an idea of what part they are interested in.

“I think the most important thing is that I always loved to draw and loved to read and even though I wasn’t always the best writer, I loved writing,” she said. “My writing improved when I became a teacher.

“One of the most meaningful things about being a teacher is interacting with children on the level of how to write, which has made me a better writer. I love to teach and I love to be in the classroom, so reading for children in a library is a different platform, but I really enjoy it,” Tortora said, adding that she has ideas for more books in the future.