Calling all Teachers! (and librarians and parents and writers and book lovers!)

About six weeks ago I attended my first IRA (International Reading Association) annual conference in Chicago.

I got to go as a Presenter, and not as an Attendee – a first for me at a major conference! Nine authors from around the country (moi included) were shocked to have our all day panel workshop accepted and after numerous phone calls and hundreds of emails to plan our eight-hour workshop, we were off!

We spoke to a room full of reading specialists, teachers and librarians, as well as teachers and librarians who aspire to be writers themselves and wanted all our inner *secrets* – which we gladly gave them. What was so great about it, is that everything we talked about and demonstrated can be used in the classroom or at home.

Our topic? Rekindling the Reading Fire – Using the Story Strategies of Professional Authors to Inspire a Love of Reading and Writing.

Please Raise Your Hand if you’ve ever attended IRA!! 25,000 people attend every year – at least – from all over the world. We had a women from Nigeria and England as well as all over the USA – and those are just the ones I personally got to chat with during breaks and lunch.

In the comments below, we’d love to hear your thoughts and impressions of any past IRA experiences and how it helped you as a teacher.

With eight hours to fill from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., of course we had to break the day into segments. We discussed aspects of story techniques, The Hero’s Journey, plotting, prose, poetry, verse novels, middle grade, fantasy, young adult novels, picture books, history, and research.We also did several hands-on writing exercises – things the teachers could take back with them to the classroom to use with their students. (Here’s a link to info about The Creative Diary; a classroom hands-on writing workshop as an example of what authors do when they visit schools.)

Since we have the most awesome readers here at From the Mixed-Up Files, I’m including links to a few of our handouts from the day. Use them for yourself or your own kids or the students in your classroom.The ones below were created by the wonderful author and former elementary school teacher, Caroline Starr Rose of MAY B fame.

1. Easy Stick Man Character Sketch

2. Where in the World are We Reading?

3. Book Travel Log with Specific Writing Exercises and Games

I paired up with Kersten Hamilton and we spent one of the slots of time discussing Fantasy: all types and genres, but more importantly, the great way fantasy books can be used with kids to expand their minds and their creativity. Books with even just a splash of magical realism can get kids to enlarge their reading horizons into other more *serious* books, like historical novels or straight contemporary stories – step by step. (See my Handout below for title ideas).

I created a PDF about fantasy books for Middle-Grade and Young Adult readers. I DEFINE each fantasy GENRE (there are 11!) as well give 3-4 EXAMPLES of current books for each genre. And here it is for easy download:


Our IRA Panel of Authors (in case you’re curious):

Carolee Dean

Uma Krishnaswami

Carolyn Meyer

April Halprin Wayland

Esther Hershenhorn

Caroline Starr Rose

Kersten Hamilton

Lisa Schroeder

Kimberley Griffiths Little

Hope the links and Handouts help you in your own reading and teaching adventures!

Kimberley turns in her proofread typeset pages of her next novel (Spring, 2013), WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME *today* and will be napping this afternoon. (*crosses fingers*)

If you’d like to see the dazzling cover Scholastic’s design team and artist Erin McGuire created, go here to take a peek and enter the NINE book giveaway on her blog: www.


Kimberley Little