Thomas F. Yezerski can't remember a time when he didn't love to read, write and draw.

As a young boy, after being tucked into bed and the light turned off, he used a flashlight to read under the covers.

He did a drawing of his much loved stuffed teddy bear, Mary Bear, in kindergarten.

In third grade, he wrote his autobiography, with great detail about how he fell and got a black eye.

When friends came to his house to play, he'd hide so he could stay inside to draw.

His point in telling Pleasant Valley Elementary students at a recent assembly about his love of reading, writing and drawing, was to help them understand how he became a published author and illustrator.

He showed the students samples of his drawings when he was young to show them how he improved as he got older.

He told them that to go from a kid who loved to read, write and draw to become an author and illustrator, it was important to go to school. Even though he didn't like school, Tom said it helped him practice all the things he loved to do.

Another place that helped him was his local library where he read lots of children's books and studied the illustrations.

When he felt ready to write and draw his own book, he decided to write about his parents as young people growing up in two different worlds.

His father's family came from Poland and his mother's family from Ireland. The title of his first book he wrote and illustrated is "Together in the Pine Patch" about the prejudices toward the Polish and Irish in the 19th century through the eyes of a young Irish girl and Polish boy growing up in a coal-mining town in Pennsylvania.

His second book, "Queen of the World" is a lot more silly and was written and illustrated about his three sisters.

The third book he wrote and illustrated is "A Full Hand," an adventure story of a young boy working on a canal. It is based on walks and talks Tom had with his father along a canal while growing up.

He has illustrated nine other books like the "Perfect Puppy" which he drew from memories of his own dog.

"Authors write about what they care about. Illustrators draw about what they care about," he said.

He showed the children how he goes about drawing and writing a book.

First he does research, then writes his story. He does sketches and puts the words and pictures together.

Then he paints the pictures in color and finally takes it to the publishers. He showed them what the printed pages look like before they are inserted in a hard cover.

He admits that he had several rejections, which made him sad, before someone finally told him they wanted to publish his book.

His message to the children was, if you love something and you're good at it, pursue it. And school is very important in helping you attain your dreams.

Tom was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and took several art classes over the years. He graduated from Parkland High School and earned his B.F.A in illustration at Syracuse University. He lives in Rutherford, New Jersey.