Connecting Authors with Kids in the Classroom

Tips for Teachers (and Authors too)

By Kirsten W. Larson 

You’ve stowed your beach towel. Set your alarm clock. Bid summer vacation “bye-bye.” Kids are back in school. As your new year begins, are you looking for fresh ways to inspire reluctant and voracious readers alike? Hoping to find some fellow book champions? This year, let authors and illustrators become your partners in literacy. Just like you, we love books—and our readers too.

The possibilities for partnering with book creators are endless, but here are a few ideas to get you started. If you have other thoughts, we’d love to hear them in the comments. 

Start on social media

Tag us:

Love our books? Let us know. One of the greatest feelings in the world is knowing real kids connect with our work. Many book creators frequent Twitter and/or Instagram, so find us there. Follow us. Post a picture of our book in your TBR pile or during a read-aloud. Let us know if you spot our books in the wild. When you post, tag us (using the @ sign) to share the book love. Or maybe your students just have a question. Ask away (and tag us!). Most of us love to respond to real readers on social media.  

Chat with us:

Many of the Soaring ‘20s members write in other genres, such as  Christina Soontornvat .

Many of the Soaring ‘20s members write in other genres, such as Christina Soontornvat.

Many of us are active in classroom and literacy-focused Twitter chats. Some chats happen in real time. Click here for a schedule. Others are asynchronous and ongoing. If you want to join the conversation, look here to find a hashtag that might fit. Do you have a classroom full of middle-grade readers? Try #MGBookChat. Want to share the latest and greatest books in your collection? See #titletalk. Looking for literacy ideas? Try #NCTEChat or #tcrwp. You’ll find plenty of book creators who want to reach your students and/or community.

Make more personal connections

Virtual visits:

Mark your calendars for Feb. 5, 2020, World Read Aloud Day, and March 2, 2020, NEA’s Read Across America Day. Each year, many schools fling open their doors in celebration, welcoming visitors who read aloud to classrooms of eager readers for free. I typically read to a couple of classes each year as part of Read Across America, and answer questions about bookmaking and working as an author as well.

Don’t have book creators living nearby? Don’t worry! Author Kate Messner wrangles a whole host of authors and illustrators available for brief, virtual visits for World Read Aloud Day. Learn about the 2019 program here. And don’t forget to follow Kate’s blog so you catch the 2020 opportunities.

#KidsNeedMentors:

Soaring ‘20s member  Lindsay H. Metcalf  is sharing her debut-year journey with a #KidsNeedsMentors class in Kansas.

Soaring ‘20s member Lindsay H. Metcalf is sharing her debut-year journey with a #KidsNeedsMentors class in Kansas.

I recently sent this package of my education-market books to a #KidsNeedMentors classroom.

I recently sent this package of my education-market books to a #KidsNeedMentors classroom.

Want to take your partnership with authors and illustrators to the next level? Try #KidsNeedMentors. Pioneered by authors Ann Braden and Jarrett Lerner and organized by educators Kristin Crouch and Kristen Picone, #KidsNeedMentors connects one book creator with the same classroom of students for the whole year. Each relationship is unique, but might include exchanging books and letters, sharing writing, answering questions via FlipGrid videos, conducting writers’ workshops, reading together during a book club, and virtual and/or in-person author visits. It’s magical!

In-person school visits:

Nothing motivates young readers and writers more than meeting their book heroes in person. Many authors and illustrators conduct school visit programs (for a fee). These often are a mix of large-group assemblies, writers’ workshops, book signings and more. To find authors open to school visits, check out sites like Authors by State and StorySeer. Not sure your school can afford a visit? Author Annette Whipple has compiled a list of possible funding sources

One of the best things about writing books for kids is connecting with young readers. Their passion for books is contagious. So make it your goal this year to partner with a book creator sparking a life-long love of reading.

Here I am, “Encouraging Super Curious Kids” in my Wonder Woman T-shirt.

Here I am, “Encouraging Super Curious Kids” in my Wonder Woman T-shirt.

KirstenWLarson.jpg

Kirsten W. Larson loves school visits. She’ll do a free 15-minute Skype visit with classes or libraries reading her nonfiction picture book, WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE, illustrated by Tracy Subisak (preorder now, releases February 2020). Kirsten used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes books for curious kids. Find her at kirsten-w-larson.com or on Twitter/Instagram @KirstenWLarson.