John Contratti is reaching outside his classroom to teach kids.
The fourth grade teacher with the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District recently released the second installment of his kids book series, “Mr. C. Takes Manhattan.”
“As a teacher, I’ve always believed my responsibility was to also show my students that there’s so much to learn beyond the classroom,” Contratti said. “Ever since I started writing children’s books, I see many of my students always wanting to write.”
The book, centered around a teacher showing his fourth grade class around Manhattan landmarks, is a sequel to Contratti’s debut book, “Cooking with Mr. C.”
Writing children’s books is another teaching tool, Contratti said.
Not only is he able to teach kids about writing, Contratti said, but by writing a book he’s also able to teach kids lessons through a story.
“It’s an opportunity to make them aware of things they may not know about,” Contratti said.
In “Cooking WIth Mr. C.,” Contratti said, he showed children that math can be learned in a variety of ways.
“Mr. C Takes Manhattan,” he said, is filled with factual information and vocabulary. Building children’s vocabulary has always been one of Contratti’s priorities as a teacher, he said.
Contratti said he likes writing for kids because they’re the best audience.
“They’re very honest on what they like and don’t like,” Contratti said.
Contratti has had a vast professional background. In addition to his 25 years of teaching and his two published books, he’s also a chef with a food blog and a part time actor.
Contratti put his passion for theater into the most recent book. During Mr. C’s class trip to Manhattan, the group has an experience on Broadway “they’ll never forget,” according to the book’s press release.
His love of acting has caught the attention of entertainment stars, according to the press release. Contratti’s befriended many Broadway actors, and has been invited backstage for almost 30 years, according to the press release.
Two of his famous acquaintances, Julianne Moore and Henry Winkler, inspired him to write the Mr. C books, he said.
“Not only are they well known actors but they’re also successful children’s authors,” Contratti said. “I’m very lucky to have the opportunity of knowing them to get advice about the literary world.”
Contratti said he’s received great feedback on his latest book. He’s read it to his own students as well as at a reading at Barnes and Noble.
Kids enjoy seeing old characters, as well as meeting new ones in the sequel, Contratti said.
Contratti isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon.
He said he’s currently working on an adult fiction book, and said another Mr. C book is expected to come out in 2019. He said he’s also hoping to turn the books into a cartoon television show.
“I will be talking about that this new year,” he said. “If it’s meant to be, it will happen.”
For now, Contratti is happy seeing the focussed faces of his audiences as he reads the words he wrote “especially for them,” he said.
“I’ve always dreamed of doing this,” Contratti said. “And here I am, doing just that.”