Brooke Bessen is one of the many inspiring people I met at SCBWI-LA (yes, I’m still talking about it! If you’re interested, you can read more about my conference experience here.) On top of being an author-illustrator, naturalist, and warm and engaging person, Brooke is the founder of Authors for Earth Day.
Authors for Earth Day (A4ED) started with Brooke’s visit to an elementary school in Phoenix, Arizona on April 22, 2008. “I was looking for a meaningful way to observe Earth Day with young readers,” says Brooke, “so I planned to donate my speaking fee to a conservation organization. Then I got thinking… what if the students voted to determine the donation recipient? I was excited to empower kids to find their ‘voice’ as writers and as voters, and to use that voice to help care for our blue planet.”
The visit was a success. Such a success, in fact, that Brooke decided it was something she wanted to do every year. And she wanted to invite other children’s authors and illustrators to join her. She developed A4ED infrastructure with resources for a team and went to the 2009 SCBWI conference in LA with a badge that said, “Ask me about Authors for Earth Day.” With the help of authors like Linda Sue Park, Dan Gutman, Lin Oliver, and Eileen and Jerry Spinelli (who no longer do school visits but have contributed financially to the cause) A4ED grew from there.
At the 2012 conference, Brooke’s badge had been replaced by am A4ED sign up table, prominently displayed in front of the main ballroom. A4ED is now a coalition of 64 authors and illustrators who have collectively contributed more than $15, 750 in donated fees from school visits. And thousands of students from New York to California to Australia have been involved in choosing, from a short list of organizations striving for a more sustainable future, who gets the money.
It’s turned into a lot of work for Brooke, who organizes everything from maintenance of the A4ED blog to recruitment of new participants. When asked why she does it, Brooke says “I started Authors for Earth Day to tie together those precious elements… children and voice and courage. And an author’s power to shape the world through their writing. I think many people write, or want to write, or imagine writing books that will infuse courage into their characters… and thus perhaps infuse courage into the young readers who love them.”
Want to get involved? If you are an author, all you have to do is contribute the fees from one school visit in April. You can sign up by emailing Brooke at info@AuthorsforEarthDay.org. If you are a librarian, media specialist, teacher or principal, check out schools page of the A4ED website for more details and consider scheduling one of the talented professionals on the growing list of Available Authors & Illustrators.
Yolanda Ridge, author of Trouble in the Trees (Orca Book Publishers, 2011) and Road Block (Orca Book Publishers, 2012), is signed up for A4ED and looking forward to her first Earth Day School visit in 2013. For more information, please read her contribution to the A4ED blog or visit her website.