Monthly Archives: April 2010

Rock n’ Roll Reading

My birthday went something like this: 

Elvis is singing on a stage with over 1,000 preschoolers screaming and waving their arms.  Next, my friend Tammi Sauer does the robot dance while singing, “How jerky is your turkey…” with her high school backup dancers, and then a chicken dressed like Elvis struts onto the stage. 

Elvis was in the house! (Brian Lee Dunning)

Sound like a bad dream?  Nope, it’s all true!  And all part of a literacy event at the Oklahoma City Zoo called Read Across Oklahoma 2010: Reading Rocks! 

 The event, now in its tenth year, is a combined partnership to promote reading to disadvantaged preschoolers.  

 “It’s all in hopes that these three- and four-year-olds will develop an appreciation for learning,” said Lori Holliday of OETA Public Television.  “We combine a variety of teaching tools, such as free books from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, our television shows, and this culminating event where we bring stories to life.”  

 This year’s rockin’ theme was inspired from the book Chicken Dance, by Oklahoma author, Tammi Sauer.     

Elvis Poultry was a hoot, I mean squawk! (Actor, Jon Hague)

  “My book features a rock n’ roll star named Elvis Poultry,” said Sauer.  “And since the zoo just opened its new Children’s Zoo with a barnyard and chickens, it was a fun tie-in.”  

 The show in the Aquaticus stadium did, in fact, feature an Elvis impersonator and an actor playing the role of Elvis Poultry—who read the story and did a lot of squawking with the kids.     

 Students from Capitol Hill High School and Metro-Tech assisted the children on their field trip adventure through the zoo by hosting alphabet stations, tattoo stops, and a dance station where they learned the “real” chicken dance.  Prior to the big day, they also sewed over 1,000 miniature Elvis capes (complete with blingy rhinestones) for the children to wear.  

 Imagine how cute that was!  

A $25,000 grant from Target made it possible to provide lunch and many materials for the event.  Many Target employees volunteered for Read Across Oklahoma, doing everything from rolling hot dogs to parking buses.  They also delivered copies of Chicken Dance for every single child to take home and read before the event.  

Lori Holliday (OETA), Tammi Sauer (author with chicken hat) and myself.

 “Because the children were already familiar with story, they could answer Elvis Poultry’s questions during the show,” said Holliday.  “It’s so great that now they can read this book over and over again, continue to discover it and learn from it.” 

 To add my own quote to the mix, “I’m thrilled that the zoo has become a site where children can be inspired to love nature and reading at the same time.”    


What better way for a writer to spend her birthday?  


Thanks to these other great sponsors: Capitol Hill High School’s Family Community and Career Leaders of America (FCCLA) and ROTC, Krueger Charitable Foundation, Metro Tech, OETA, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, OZS ZooFriends, Target and the Zoo.   


Committee members and Super Why!

Committee Members:  Kerri McLinn, Oklahoma Department of Libraries; DJ Watts Bowker, Capitol Hill High School; Sara Collins, Metro Tech; Donna Onley, Target; Heide Hartfield, Target; Candice Rennels, Oklahoma City Zoo.   


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Backstory on the Extreme Ranch Makeover

Did you watch the Extreme Makeover episode on March 14th?  It was the Skaggs makeover in Oklahoma—the one where I stood in the cold for three days to cover the story (as mentioned in a previous posting).  

Celebrities with the Skaggs Family. Photo by Amy Dee Stephens

Well, the Distinctly Oklahoma magazine article on the interior design just came out, and here’s the backstory on that!  The ABC network was very secretive on what the house’s inside looked like.  For obvious reasons, they didn’t want word leaked until the show aired.  As a media representative, I wasn’t allowed inside at all.  And the story about the interior couldn’t run until the show aired, either. 

So, standing outside for three days only netted me three things:  chills, pictures of exterior construction, and tidbits from volunteers.  A nice ABC representative named Rachel took pity on me, and I got an exclusive story with Jillian Harris, the guest celebrity designer from The Bachelorette.  (Still trying to sell that story, because it was a lovely and emotional interview about the value of volunteering, with a little bit thrown in about fashion and her fiancé).  

How To Write About a House You’ve Never Seen 

I wouldn’t trade the experience of watching the Skaggs’ reaction at seeing their new ranch-style house during the “Move That Bus” sequence.  BUT, I still had a story to write, about the interior of a house—which I’d never seen.  The volunteers who had been inside the house could only give me pieces of information like, “I painted the chair,” or “I was in charge of sweeping the floor.”  Not the exposé bits I needed. 

Amy at the job site

Just days before my deadline, I knew only that the house was decorated in ranch style and that some teal accents were used.  Still not enough.  

Then, several things fell into place.  First, I got a TOP SECRET disc of interior photographs taken by an Ideal Homes photographer.  I was sworn to secrecy by Steve and the marketing team that these would not be revealed prior to the show’s air date.  Continue reading

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