When I was a little kid, I wanted to be an author because I wanted to find one of my books on the library shelves. Seriously, that was my dream: a big “PE” (for PERL) sticker on the spine and everything. While I must confess that seeing my books on an alphabetized bookshelf still gives me a thrill, I now know that this is not the best part of writing for children.
The best part, hands down, is sharing my books with kids.
While some kids are fortunate enough to get to meet authors like Jeff Kinney and Suzanne Collins at book stores, festivals, and even their own schools, many kids are not so lucky. And many schools and programs do not have the resources or budgets to bring in authors to visit and meet with their students. Luckily, there are great organizations that work to bring authors and illustrators to kids who might otherwise never meet them. And many of these organizations partner with First Book so every child in attendance receives a brand new signed book to keep.
For example, here in the greater Washington, DC area, there are several groups that facilitate author visits for programs and schools serving children in need. For example, last month I had a great visit to Washington DC’s Garfield Elementary School with Turning the Page. At this Community Night event, I got to lead a standing-room-only crowd of kids and parents in a spirited reader’s theater performance of Chicken Butt! Last month I also had the pleasure of visiting Govans Elementary School in Baltimore with Write Brain Kids. It was a huge treat to hear the fourth grade students try out their “Ace” voices as they chuckled over scenes from When Life Gives You O.J. In addition to those two programs, I have worked with many Washington DC area programs including An Open Book Foundation, PEN-Faulkner’s Writers in Schools (WinS) program, and The Reading Connection. Through First Book, authors and illustrators are able to connect with similar programs serving communities across the United States and in Canada. Examples that come to mind include The Foundation for Children’s Books in Boston, and New York City’s Behind the Book.
Each program is unique in its format and age focus but all have certain things in common: they serve schools and programs where a published author or illustrator is not someone the kids usually get to meet, they give kids books to call their own and they succeed in getting kids super-excited about reading, writing, drawing and books!
And one more thing: they all have as much of a positive impact on the authors as they do on the kids!