Back to School: The Teacher-Author Partnership is Thriving

It’s August.

Here’s what Natalie Babbitt had to say about August in the opening lines of Tuck Everlasting:

To me, August is like a breath held for a moment. We’re not quite ready to give up summer. There’s summer left to be savored. And, yet, school bells are starting to ring. A friend in Tennessee tells me that school started yesterday there. Here in western Ohio, it will start in two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve experienced this time of closure and renewal as a mother, a teacher, and as an author, and just lately, I’ve been struck by the number of exciting and innovative ways teachers and authors are teaming up to bring a love of books and a desire to learn to their students and readers. Let’s look at few:

#KidsNeedMentors When author Ann Braden teamed up with fellow author Jarrett Lerner and then with 5th grade teachers Kristen Picone and Kristin Crouch, something magical happened.  Using Twitter as their connection, the foursome created a mentorship campaign that connects a teacher and their class with an author in a year-long exchange of ideas and encouragement. In it’s first year, #KidsNeedMentors will support 300 author/teacher pairs! Click here to read a recent School Library Journal article about the program.

Nerd Camp The original Nerd Camp was held in Michigan six years ago with 180 educators in attendance. Organized by teacher Colby Sharp and his fantastic team, this FREE literacy event has grown to include 1500 educators and over 50 authors. Did you hear me say, it’s FREE?  And it always will be.  Nerd Camp Michigan now receives so much author interest that they have to turn away published authors each year, and most of these authors are volunteering to come on their own dime. (Some receive publisher backing, but most don’t). I can’t think of anything more lovely and genuine than this show of  support for the professionals who teach reading and writing.  Since its inception, Nerd Camps have been popping up all over the United States, borrowing from the model set forth by its originators. If you’d like to know more about starting a Nerd Camp in your area, first, take a look at the Nerd Camp MI website, and then contact Colby Sharp for more information.

Teacher/Librarian Bloggers As an author, I want to stay connected with my readership. And by readership, I mean not just those who read my books, but those who read any middle-grade fiction or nonfiction. It’s good to know their reading habits, but it’s even more important to know about them.  What makes a middle-grader laugh? What are they afraid of? What relationships matter the most?  The best educators are students of their students.  They know them as learners and as human beings navigating their way through life. There are some amazing teacher bloggers out there. If you follow one, share their blog in the comments below. And, I’ll share with you two of my favorite.

First, here’s a link to Pernille Ripp’s Blog. She’s introspective and always evaluating her methods and materials based on her current students. Check it out.

And, another favorite is Matthew Winner’s website and blog. Matthew is an elementary librarian, author, blogger, and podcaster, so his website contains lots of kidlit books, interviews, and information all rolled together into one fun package. See what he’s got to say.

Author Visits Finally, my very favorite way that teachers and authors connect:

School visits!

There’s nothing better than meeting face-to-face with readers, answering their questions (all of their questions, even the personal ones), and hearing their ideas (which are often so brilliant, I can’t wait to see what these young people do when they grow up!) School visits, when done right (which takes communication and planning for both the author or illustrator and the school personnel) can connect children and authors in a very meaningful way. Most of the time, it also means  financial investment on the part of the school, and some schools can’t locate the funds to make that happen. However, with some preplanning, creative funding options, and the use of technology, though, it might be more possible than you think. Here are some links to previous posts about Author Visits.  Face to Face with an Author or Illustrator.   Memorable Author Visits and 21 Ways to Fund Author Visits.

Whether you’re preparing for the Back-to-School season as a parent, a teacher, a librarian, an administrator, an author, or an illustrator, one fact is certain: we’re all connected by the young readers we serve. And, quite frankly, I’ve never been more excited about the ways in which we’re reaching out to one another!

 

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Michelle Houts
Michelle Houts writes middle-grade, chapter books, and picture books from a restored one-room schoolhouse near her home. She loves reading, mail, farming, and birds. Michelle visits schools and libraries to share writing excitement with future authors. To find out more and to learn about Michelle's 52Letters Challenge, visit www.michellehouts.com