Monday, June 18, 2012

Author visits show kids books are important enough to travel across the country to share

I’m excited to report that my Canadian Children's Book Centre tour in May 2012 resulted in more than 1000 children in Newfoundland learning a trick to find the North Star. One of the wonderful parts about presenting to children as an author and storyteller is being able to instantly respond to curiosity. It was wonderful to hear student comments like: "I didn't know I was interested in space, but I am!"  

As well as providing a natural lead to talking about the writing process, sharing mythology on how ancient cultures viewed the night sky provided an ideal opening to fire off my favorite space facts. 

Nonfiction is for everyone and black holes definitely garnered a great amount of interest. The range of questions asked shows that kids don't care if the nearest black hole is 1700 light years away. They want to know what would happen if you got too close!

The students I met were remarkably polite. One young boy, upon hearing I live in Alberta, asked "Do you know Ashley?" When someone lives in a community where it's possible to know everyone else, having someone "come from away" as they say in Newfoundland, is extremely important. Just as books expose readers to different ideas, author visits are essential for showing kids that reading skills are vital, good writing is essential, and that some people consider books important enough to travel across the country to share.

My five days took me to 12 venues for 18 presentations. 
Newfoundland Public Library visits included Cormack, Grand Falls-Windsor, Harmsworth, Mount Pearl, and St. John's. Welcoming and knowledgeable library staff shuttled me everywhere and shared the island culture with enthusiasm. In their company, I enjoyed fantastic scenery, spotted two bald eagles, visited Signal Hill, and even saw a growler—a new term I learned to describe small chunks of iceberg (which are not as small as bergy bits).

I truly hope I have the opportunity to visit Newfoundland students again, if not in person, at least via Skype—perhaps to share my upcoming historical picture book The Discovery of Longitude.

Much thanks to the CCBC organizers, library staff, hosts, and audience members who made this trip so memorable. The tour, organized by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, was sponsored by the Toronto Dominion Bank as part of Canadian Children’s Book Week 2012. 

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