The first retreat for the Pinewood Ravine Writers was held in August at my home. The theme: New Beginnings. The speaker: Jody Casella (5th from left). From left to right: me, Annie Reufle, Sue Keith, Jody, Edith Pattou, and Natalie Richards.
Pinewood Ravine Writers
Star of Childrens/Teen Book World Margaret Peterson Haddix
Who hasn't read at least one of Margaret's books?! She dropped by Weaver Middle School to talk with my kids, and you could've heard a pin drop. Her stories, her experiences, her writing, her answers to questions -- she held the kids in the palm of her hand. Check out all her books: www.haddixbooks.com
Teen Book Author Mindy McGinnis
Ohio Author, and amazing speaker, Mindy McGinnis came by Weaver Middle School to talk with the kids about writing, her books, and what makes her tick. She's an Edgar Award winner, and you need to check out her books: www.mindymcginnis.com
Brendan Kiely -- All American Boy
Brendan Kiely, co-writer of All American Boys, visited my students to tell stories, talk about his books, and talk about some tough issues, such as racism, sexism, and classicism.
How did a boy from Washington, DC, who didn’t read a book until he was 17, become a multiple award winning author and poet for middle grade students and young adults? Because of a few revelations:
1. The discovery that Queen Latifah’s rap lyrics were poetry;
2. Because a high school English teacher gave him a copy of Black Boy by Richard Wright;
3. And because a college English professor told him he’d never be successful as a writer.
And now Jason Reynolds is writing the books he wished he’d had available to read when he was a kid.
Jason visited my middle school, and spoke to the students about his life, books, and writing. Students had been devouring his titles, were enthralled with his stories, and asked questions about his life and writing. Jason autographed books for students, and took extra time to talk with them one-on-one. In short, he was a reading and writing rock star to my kids!
Victoria Laurie, Michigan author of adult and YA books, wrote a thriller titled "When" that captured my Books and Brownies kids' attention. She spent an hour talking with my kids about the ideas behind the book, answering questions about writing, playing a "what if?" game, and autographing books. The excitement on the kids' faces are obvious! Book clubs are a must, but when an author can drop in? Icing on the cake!
Students in my Gay Straight Alliance are readers, and when I told them that the author of the Stonewall Award winning book "If I Was Your Girl" was coming to Columbus for a conference they begged me to "work my magic" and get her to visit. She was more than happy to drop by, trade jokes, talk about life as a transgender woman, answer their questions, encourage them to write, and autograph books. It was a deeply meaningful visit.
Skyping is a more affordable alternative to an author visit. Kwame Alexander regularly offers Skype visits and will talk to kids about his books, and answer questions. I invited a friend who's a 4th grade classroom teacher to join us, so it made the Skype session even more valuable.
"Historians are nosy gossips," author Candace Fleming shared with my students. Using primary documents, juicy stories, and a large dose of humor she shared how nonfiction research and writing can be fascinating.
I believe in access -- access to the book the child is dying to read. So I buy them as the budget allows, but I borrow books weekly from the public library and check them out to students. They know I'll get them whatever children's or YA book they want, and they've grown to depend on me.
Hooking Reluctant Readers
What do you do to hook a reluctant reader? I do whatever it takes. Booktalking? Of course! I always try to center the students in the story -- what's in it for them? And I always pull out an engaging segment to entice the kids. In the case of these guys, an autographed book, lunch in the library (including brownies), and the chance to listen to audiobooks by high interest authors, like Jason Reynolds.
Author Michelle Houts
Ohio author Michelle Houts visited my students through a partnerships with the Ohioana Library. Each year the library holds a book festival, commissions Ohio authors, then asks area schools to host them. Reaching out to literary organizations is a great way to get author visits, and help widen your community of readers.
Get to know your local authors and invite them into your space. Jody Casella, author of teen paranormal book "Thin Space" has visited my school several times to talk books, writing, and encourage reading. Local authors are often glad to be a partner with you.
Integrating Books & Reading Into All Parts of Your Organization
Since I'm a school librarian, books are naturally integrated into language arts, but I infuse them into every curricular area possible: social studies, science, the arts, and even math. But I attach them to other facets of school life, as well. For example, in this photo the seventh grade took on a service learning project using the theme of super heroes, and Miles Morales became a natural connection.
And of course, I hold book clubs (Books & Brownies) and Battle Over Books. There are kids that are passionate readers already and need a venue for sharing with other like minded people.
Author Edith Pattou Drops By
New York Times best selling author, Edith Pattou, Columbus, OH, dropped by one of our book club meetings to talk with the kids about her collection of fantasy and realistic books. What insightful questions they asked, and what valuable information she gave. And she offered to come back in November when new book West is released! http://www.edithpattou.com/
Columbus Author Erin McCahan
Author of teen titles The Lake Effect, Love and Other Foreign Words, and I Now Pronounce You Someone Else, Erin McCahan talked about inspiration, writing, reading several books at one time.