Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Authors as Rock Stars

 My reading camp yesterday buzzed with excitement. Looking around the room I saw children smiling, laughing, whispering to each other. What could cause this type of excitement? A rock star was in our midst.

See, to me, my “rock stars” aren’t really rock stars. Not even celebrities. My rock stars are authors. I still remember walking the exhibit hall with John Schu last year at NCTE. He whispered to me, “That’s Katherine Paterson.” I froze. He wanted to go up and talk to her, and he did, but I couldn’t even move. She is one of my idols. 

I’ve always adored authors, from when I was young. But they were out of reach so I never imagined I would have the opportunity to meet, let alone talk, to one. Luckily for my kids, the world seems to be shrinking. I want my own children and my students to see authors as real people. As people that get to do one of the coolest jobs in the world, but people they can actually approach as well.

I think John Green said it well in his vlog just posted yesterday. He talked about how he wasn’t nervous around Chris Colfer when he was at BEA, but he was around his idol, Jeffrey Eugenides.

And then today I went running. When dressing I was in a grouchy mood, so I put on my SMILE t-shirt, from Rania Telgemeier, who I think is amazing, to inspire me to run. I reached the track and began listening to Katie Davis’s podcast – Brain Burps about Books. It was the 100th episode and she was interviewing Jon Scieszka, Katherine Paterson, and Walter Dean Myers – the current and former National Ambassadors for Young People’s Literature. While I was listening to Katie and Jon talk about young kids bowing to him when he entered the room, asking what type of car he drove, or asking to try on the medal, I couldn’t help but think that this is the way it should be. That authors are our role models. That kids want to interact with them. And this is what I strive for in my classroom.

Yesterday my reading camp students had the opportunity to Skype with an author, the amazing Ame Dyckman who wrote Boy + Bot. The students were so excited. I have twelve kids gathering at my house on Tuesdays, from ages 7-12. We’ve read Ame’s book several times. The students all created questions for her, we discussed the book, and then it was time. Some of the campers have been in my reading class before but most hadn’t. One child told me he couldn’t believe he was going to meet “a real live author!” Ame came on and she was amazing. She had high energy, was funny, called the kids by name, and answered their questions. It was just 15 minutes long but what a valuable 15 minutes. When the session was over it was time for the kids to leave. I had many of them telling me how much they loved Ame, how they wanted to go home and write, and how they thought they should get blue hair too. J Several said they couldn’t wait to retell the story of Boy + Bot when they got home and tell their parents they met the author. She is now a rock star to them, and as it should be.

I’ve had the chance to meet several authors in the past few years. Some are authors of books for kids, some are authors of books for teachers, and many have become close friends. And while I’m not nervous around all of them, I admire what they have done and many have become my mentors. So while some people look forward to meeting an actor, athlete, or musician – I prefer authors. While saying that, I also think it is wise to remember that the people we look up to are just people. Sometimes it is hard to live up to high expectations. That’s why I love what John Green said at the end of his video, “In our hyper-secular world, worship is still inevitable. But it is vital to remember, that our gods don’t choose us, we choose them.”  I think who we admire says something about us. I choose authors and I hope to help my students do the same.

Today to celebrate my rock stars, and to thank the amazing Ame Dyckman for Skyping with my camp, I am giving away one copy of her book. Please enter below.

Giveaway Rules

1. This giveaway will run from June 13th until 11:59 pm June 15th. (Central time zone)

2. This contest is open to people living in the continental United States.

3. You must be at least 13 years to enter.

4. If you can, please pay it forward. Thanks!