Sunday, May 6, 2012

Thinking Outside the Book: Author Visits

It should come as no surprise to library folks who work with children that kids enjoy all sorts of activities that extend the books they love. Whether they get to search the library for Dr. Suess hats, take home a Curious George bookmark, play on the Thomas train table, or draw a picture inspired by a favorite book, kids LOVE to interact with their favorite stories in new ways. It can be tons of fun to bring favorite book characters into the library--think costumed Max and Ruby or Clifford--and these programs usually draw tons of young book enthusiasts. But what about bringing in the creative forces behind these favorite books? Yep, I'm talking about author visits.

Me (as Lucy Bear)
and Peter Brown
After only one month at my current library, I was fortunate to be able to put on an author visit program with Peter Brown, author/illustrator of Children Make Terrible Pets fame (as well as a handful of other terrific, kid-loved books). Brown's book are aimed at preschoolers, and you might wonder, How engaged are preschoolers going to be in a program where a guy is talking to them about books? I am happy to say that even very young readers find exploring the behind-the-scenes workings of books fascinating. Brown put on a great program for my library--he talked about how he got started drawing books when he was a kid not much older than his audience, and he shared some great early artwork to illustrate his points. He was funny, he was aware of the attention span of his audience, and he patiently answered questions from kids about his own artwork and about theirs. Brown drew us a picture before the presentation ended, and as the kids got the chance to approach him and have their books signed, it was clear that they considered him a new friend. What had previously been just a good book to read was suddenly so much more personal and nuanced. I know the guy who made that book! He's funny! I can start to make books, too!

This weekend I attended a similar author event at another library in my district. Ashley Wolff, illustrator and author of a whole slew of books including the well-love Miss Bindergarten series, really engaged her young audience with examples of her early artwork and her simple explanations of how she uses the people she knows--family, friends--as models for her characters. She asked how many kids consider themselves good artists (every hand shot up!), and she talked about the passion, practice, patience, and perseverance that go into becoming an even better artist. Wolff talked for a nice chunk of time, but not once did those kids get fidgety or bored. Kids love seeing how their favorite stories come to be. And perhaps more than anything else, they love the feeling of personal connection to books that is a result of a good author program. I won't be the least bit surprised if the kids from my library who attended will be bringing me their own book illustrations in the next week or two. A good author visit is that exciting and inspiring.

What about at your library? Have you embraced author visits? How have they gone, and how were they received by your kids?

1 comment:

  1. Amy, HOLY CRAP I AM SO JEALOUS! I adore Peter Brown and was so sad that I couldn't go to TLA to meet him! Lucky you!

    -Sarah P.


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