For Writers

The Five Different Types of Readers: What Authors and Educators Can Learn From them

As an author, I’ve found that it’s useful to understand different types of readers, so I can better understand for whom I might be writing my stories.

I’m going to offers up some definitions I created based on the work of literacy scholar Kylene Beers, who breaks readers into five distinct groups: Avid Readers, Dormant Readers, Uncommitted Readers, Unmotivated Readers and Unskilled Readers.

The Avid Reader—This is someone like myself and my older son Jonah. My husband has been known to pull the cereal boxes off the table to get us to eat. But that doesn’t stop Jonah and me. Oh no. We’ll happily read the back of any brand of orange juice carton. We are even known to flip over the napkin holder because it has interesting warnings in both Spanish and in English that it would be a bad idea to eat the napkin holder.

The Dormant Reader—This is a reader who might enjoy reading but doesn’t have time. In the case of a child, she or he might be overscheduled or it’s not the highest thing on their priority list of things-to-do. They’ve heard a certain book is good and think it’s cool and do want to get there. Eventually.

The Uncommitted Reader—This person feels ambivalent towards reading. They believe that someday they’ll read but that day isn’t quite today.

Unmotivated Reader—This reader never reads for pleasure and finds reading a big, fat ugly chore.

Unskilled Reader—This reader doesn’t yet have the skills to decode text.

These definitions have helped me to be understand reluctant readers and to climb out of my own experience.
I was one of those voracious readers, so I didn’t understand why everyone else was not like me.

Take my younger sister growing up. She really would be practicing her lacrosse goalie skills or watch TV or hanging with oodles of friends. But rarely ever reading.

I didn’t get her. And she didn’t get me.

I was that shy kid always playing pretend or reading books about girls from another century.

While I never bothered to try to coax my sister to pick up one of my thick novels, my mother never gave up on my sister as a reader. She bought her the Choose Your Own Adventure books, as well as read aloud to her quite a bit. When my sister got into music of the Doors, she bought a book on the band.

Today, my sister is a librarian and probably reads more than me. My mother understand that the unmotivated reader can become the uncommitted reader who then can become the avid reader.

So the lesson here is just because a kid is currently in one category, it doesn’t mean they will stay there. And it doesn’t mean that an avid reader will always stay there either. For example, I found that when my kids were babies my reading really dropped. I was lucky to have enough time to read the back of the cereal box. When it comes to reading status, things can be fluid. This can be true for authors in terms of their intended readers as well.

My recent middle grade novels, Apple Pie Promises and Pumpkin Spice Secrets, obviously target reluctant readers. However, the first titles in my new chapter book series, Ellie May on Presidents’ Day and Ellie May on April Fools’ Day are hybrids. I tried to write it for both the young avid reader and the uncommitted one. But I’m ever hopeful that the unmotivated reader will also be charmed by Ellie May’s personality and antics. Since I don’t write beginning readers, I can’t hope to hook an unskilled reader, except as a read aloud. And if it that were the case, I would be very happy indeed.

What sort of reader were you as a kid? Where are you now? Teachers, do you see a huge spread in your classrooms. And authors, whom do you write for?

Hillary Homzie is the author of the forthcoming Ellie May chapter book series (Charlesbridge, Dec 18, 2018), as well as Apple Pie Promises (Sky Pony/Swirl, October 2018), Pumpkin Spice Secrets (Sky Pony/Swirl, October 2017), Queen of Likes (Simon & Schuster MIX 2016), The Hot List (Simon & Schuster MIX 2011) and Things Are Gonna Be Ugly (Simon & Schuster, 2009) as well as the Alien Clones From Outer Space (Simon & Schuster Aladdin 2002) chapter book series. She can be found at and on her Facebook page as well as on Twitter.

Celebrating Little Free Libraries and Their Founder

You’ve seen them, right? Little boxes on poles, filled with books, and standing in the most unexpected places.

Brunswick, ME has a Little Free Library down the street from the Brunswick Inn.

The Little Free Library movement began just nine years ago in Hudson, Wisconsin when founder Todd Bol crafted the first book box from an old door. Less than a decade later, there are more than 75, 000 Little Free Libraries in 88 countries.

Of course, Bol’s vision had everything to do with books and reading, but what many don’t know is that building a sense of community was Bol’s ultimate goal. Connecting people to books is one thing. Connecting people to people through books is what makes each Little Free Library so very special.

Ashlyn doesn’t wait to get home to start reading. The Little Free Library in Monroe, Indiana is one of her favorite places to visit.

Last week, Todd Bol died following a very brief illness. He leaves behind a successful non-profit organization that employs 13 people and has more than 75,000 volunteer stewards who maintain the Little Free Libraries around the world.  Author Miranda Paul and illustrator John Parra have been working on a picture book about Bol and his Little Free Library movement. The book is titled “Little Libraries, Big Heroes,” and will be released in 2019.

Listen to Miranda discuss the upcoming book and Bol’s legacy on NPR’s All Things Considered.


Little Free Libraries have sprouted up everywhere. They can be found in parks, neighborhoods, outside of businesses and on country roads. Authors Sherri Duskey Rinker and Jane Yolen have placed them in front of their homes.

One day, Sherri’s neighbor called and told her to grab her camera and look at what was happening outside. Sherri snapped this picture.

THIS is exactly what Todd Bol envisioned. Not book boxes on sticks. Hubs of community, sharing, reading, memory-making.


This Little Free Library stands outside the Exploration Station at Perry Farm Park in Bourbonnais, Illinois.


Recently, my daughter discovered a Little Free Library near her college campus in Illinois. On a rainy day, she placed copies of my books inside, snuggled next to Sharon Creech’s Heartbeat. Knowing that a young reader could wander by and find a story to enjoy there made my day.


The Little Free Library at Phoenix Farm, the home of author Jane Yolen.

At some time, I’d like to place a Little Free Library myself. I live on a sprawling, working farm, so my own property would only attract cattle and hogs. I will think of the perfect spot and I’ll carry on Todd Bol’s amazing legacy by signing up to become a Little Free Library steward. You can, as well, by clicking here.

Until then, I’ve resolved to keeping a box of books in my trunk. I won’t pass a Little Free Library without adding my contribution, in memory of and in celebration of Todd Bol.

Building Community for Children’s WOC/Indigenous Writers

Art installation at the Loft Literary Center in 2017

Children’s writers of color and Indigenous writers have voices that need to be heard and stories that need to be told. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Loft Literary Center is helping that happen with a series of drop-in classes for Writers of Color and Indigenous Writers. This writing center is truly a special place for writers in the Twin Cities. For me, it’s where my writers’ group meets and also where I’ve had the opportunity to learn from experienced writers through classes and lectures. It’s a place of community where writers of all kinds can learn, grow, and connect.

For the Writers of Color and Indigenous Writers series of classes, each one focuses on a different writing topic and is taught “from the perspective of writers of color and Indigenous writers, meaning that the unique experiences of these writers are accounted for in the materials provided to the class discussions,” says Marion Gómez, Program Associate for these classes at the Loft.

I asked Marion (MG) a few questions about the series of classes (now in its third year), and also talked with Sarah Warren (SW), an instructor of the children’s writers class in the series. Here are their thoughts on finding community and support for children’s writers of color and Indigenous writers.

Marion, how did this series of classes start and how has it changed over the years?

MG: The class came out of a collaboration between David Mura and the Loft. David Mura approached the Loft with the idea of him teaching a class intended for writers or color and Indigenous writers that would address some of the barriers these communities often face—such as cost and participants having unpredictable schedules. The Loft received a Minnesota State Arts Board Arts Learning grant in 2015 to fund a free, multi-genre class with drop-in attendance taught by David Mura. The class began in February of 2016, meeting the first and second Wednesdays of each month until August, 2016.

David Mura taught the first and second years exclusively, but this last year Diego Vázquez Jr., Vanessa Ramos, Michael Kleber-Diggs, Heid E. Erdrich, Kao Kalia Yang, Sarah Park Dahlen, Erin Sharkey, and Sarah Warren joined David in teaching the class, each teaching one session with David teaching the first and last classes. This last August, Sarah Park Dahlen taught a class that examined insider and outsider authorship in children’s books and in October, Sarah Warren taught an introductory class on writing children’s picture book biographies.

Sarah, how did you become involved with teaching for this series of classes?

SW: I started attending classes at the Loft over 17 years ago. I love to write and I’m grateful for opportunities to develop. The Loft is special. We get to learn from other authors. Instructors have a working knowledge of the field. I also appreciate the network of support I’ve cultivated from classes and conferences. I never would have found my footing in this profession without help from several mentors. Community is priceless. I’m proud that I get to contribute what I know as a teaching artist.

What do you think is most valuable about this series of classes at the Loft?

MG: Bringing more writers of color and Indigenous writers into the world is so important in combating racism and oppression. The more writers of color and Indigenous writers we have the more their truths will be heard, the less alone these writers and their communities will feel, and the more galvanized they’ll be to demand justice. I love the sense of community that has formed among the students. Some have even formed outside writing groups after meeting in the class.

SW: For most of us, sharing our stories with children means negotiating the publishing industry. That was a huge learning curve for me. I had worked so hard to build up my ego… to believe my art was something worth investing in. Once I started getting critiqued and rejected, my ego started to get beat down by outside perspectives. Sometimes, that was good! I needed to grow and learn and become a better writer. Sometimes, that was bad. The industry and the outside voices weren’t open to my cultural point-of-view. The problem was, I didn’t know the difference. I didn’t know when I needed to change, and when I needed to push back. Now, I have people I can go to when I need perspective. It took me way too long to find those people. I think classes like these can build a powerful network for POC/Indigenous writers.

I am all for building a space where artists of color and indigenous artists can get feedback, offer support, and share wisdom without feeling exoticized, humiliated, tokenized, abnormal, or lonely. I’ve felt all of those things (usually not at the same time) in class. It’s stressful.

Marion, what kinds of students attend, what do they say about the classes, and how does the Loft get students involved?

MG: The students vary in age, race, experience level, and type of writing they do. Some of the students have also taught a session of the class and/or are published authors while others are very new it writing. What I hear repeatedly from them is that they love being around other writers of color and Indigenous writers. That this intentional space allows them to feel less isolated and free to express themselves more fully. After we received the grant in 2015, we held three preview classes at various locations in Minneapolis and Saint Paul to reach out to perspective students as well as promoted the class at Loft events and on social media. The classes are listed in our quarterlies, which are distributed throughout the Twin Cities. I also have a listserv of past and present participants I send a monthly email to, letting them know about upcoming classes and other opportunities, and I’m always inviting new writers of color and indigenous writers to the class I meet. I’m so grateful to you, Karen, for helping spread the word through the Mixed-Up Files blog!

Sarah, how do you think children’s publishing will benefit from having more writers of color and Indigenous writers? 

SW: I heard Daniel José Older say in an interview, “To me, it’s a huge human rights violation, to deny an entire generation of young people of color…generation after generation of young people of color the right to see ourselves as protagonists in stories. How else are we to conceptualize ourselves as protagonists in our lives if not through the stories we are told?” That’s me he’s talking about. I never saw myself in stories unless I suspended my own personhood and slipped fully into someone else’s skin. We need the chance to grow up seeing many possible versions of ourselves. The community of writers serving kids should be just as diverse as its audience.

What do you suggest for other writing centers hoping to start similar programs?

MG: I recommend they start by listening to the communities they want to serve so that they can design a program that really addresses the needs and desires of these communities.

SW: Not all writers are comfortable calling themselves experts or teachers. Some of us don’t even feel comfortable calling ourselves writers! Find a way to mentor potential teaching artists. Be open to unconventional teaching styles. Accommodate students who aren’t comfortable in formalized educational settings by seeking out safe community spaces. Make sure to pay your artists!

What do you suggest for children’s writers of color and Indigenous writers wanting support and instruction in writing?

MG: Come to the class! We will have at least two classes focused on writing for children/young adults in the next round starting this spring. The Loft also has a new mentorship program for writers of color and Indigenous writers called Mirrors and Windows. Applications for this year have already closed but will be accepted again next summer (2019). The most important thing they can do is find a community that supports them.

SW: If you read things that resonate with you, contact the authors. Let them know their work struck a chord. Ask questions. Attend conferences and readings and classes. Ask questions. Read your work out loud. If you connect with other writers, form a group! Go to my website: Do you have questions? Email me! I’m happy to share resources. Keep writing. We need your voice!


Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with the Writers of Color and Indigenous Writers series of classes at the Loft, Marion and Sarah! To learn more about the Loft, visit Are there any classes like these in your city? Tell us about them in the comments!

Marion Gómez is a poet and teaching artist based in Minneapolis. She has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Jerome Foundation. Her poems have appeared in La Bloga, Mizna, and elsewhere. Her poem “Father Bought Mangos” was selected for the Saint Paul Almanac’s Impressions Project. She is a member of the Latinx spoken word collective Palabristas and works at the Loft.





Sarah is an early childhood educator who graduated from the Loft’s Master Track writing apprenticeship program in 2006. Her debut picture book, Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers was picked for the Amelia Bloomer Top Ten Book List and awarded a Jane Addams Peace Association Children’s Book Award honor. Her picture book about the singer Beyoncé is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin. Sarah’s family lives in Minneapolis with their dog, Bruce Valentine. Visit