The Best of #OneBookConnects Author Interviews

Since its launch in April 2020, #OneBookConnects has become one of Read to Them’s staple programs. The digital reading initiative was created to combat wide-spread school closures that left parents and students in need of enrichment to fulfill the loss of in-classroom learning. In the course of a year, over 28,000 students have participated in #OneBookConnects. Each of our selected titles have been bolstered by author interactions, including live Q&As on Instagram and exclusive interviews on the #OneBookConnects blog.

Below, we have selected the brightest gems from the treasure trove of advice and wisdom offered by each author. Enjoy! 


On their relationship with reading as a child: 

Elana K. Arnold (A Boy Called Bat): I’ve always been a big reader when I was a little kid. I was a lot like Bat. I didn’t know much about making friends, I didn’t feel very comfortable in social situations, I didn’t have a really good time controlling my body in space and time, and books were a place where I just felt very comfortable and safe. I was a very avid reader. I can’t even remember a time before I read.

Liesl Shurtliff (Rump): I liked reading, except when I was made to read, though I loved being read to, always. It didn’t matter what it was, I always loved it. I think it was that we were experiencing the story all-together. There’s power in communal acts, in experiencing something as a group, and reading together creates incredible bonds of empathy and understanding. I was quite imaginative as a child. I loved all things fairytales and magic and believed wholeheartedly in fairies and mermaids. I felt (and still do feel) that we live in a magical world. No matter how much we learn about the world from a scientific view, it’s still wondrous and magical to me.

Chris Kurtz (The Adventures of a South Pole Pig): When I was a boy, reading was a family tradition begun and sustained by my mother. She read to us long after we could read to ourselves. Those shared books are some of my best memories.

On what they hope families will get out of #OneBookConnects: 

Lisa Cline-Ransome (Finding Langston): I hope families in particular read about the power of love, acceptance and finding home wherever you land. In Finding Langston we see the grief [Langston] and his father endure and it is only through their love for each other and their need to be a family to each other that they are able to find a way to discuss and come to terms with their losses and loneliness. I think what it shows us is that when we have nothing else, we have family and community to see us through our most challenging times.

Wendy Orr (Nim’s Island): I hope that they feel that sense of connection with the other families across the country who are doing it, too: maybe sharing something special at a difficult time will help us remember that no matter where we live or what we look like, we all have the same feelings.

Zetta Elliot (Dragons in a Bag): Elders often play a central role in my stories, and that’s true of Dragons in a Bag and The Dragon Thief. With Ambrose, too, I tried to point to people in our society that we treat as though they’re invisible. I hope when families read my book, they let the story live beyond the page—that they discuss the idea of belonging and what courage looks like, and that they see themselves in Jaxon as he takes risks and asks for help from his family and friends.


On writing and reading advice for children: 

Sharon Creech (Granny Torrelli Makes Soup): It’s simple, but it works for me: read a lot, write a lot. Experiment. Write short things until you feel ready for something longer. Try different genres and forms: short stories, plays, poetry, fantasy, realism—whatever interests you. Most of all: have fun with it!

Sally Warner (EllRay Jakes is a Rock Star): As your writing children get older, encourage them sometimes to try writing from a different point of view. For instance, if she has written in a journal about a fight with her cousin and shared that with you, you might try asking her to write about that fight from her cousin’s point of view.

Your writing child might try that when making up a story (writing fiction), too.

That’s not ‘taking sides’ in the argument, it’s stretching that child’s writing muscle–and, perhaps, empathy.

Victoria Coe (Fenway & Hattie): To readers, my best advice is to read whatever you want. Read what interests you. Read what makes you feel all the feels. Read whatever you enjoy reading. That’s the most important thing.

To writers, my best advice is to read. The more you read, the more those stories will become part of you, the more you’ll just “know” what makes a great story.

Emily Jenkins (Toys Go Out): Don’t be afraid to imitate writers you like, and to borrow their styles, or their subject matter. That’s what painters do! They learn by copying great works of art. Sometimes teachers tell students to only write about their own lives, or to limit themselves to writing small moments. But know what? I disagree with those teachers. Imagination is one of the things that makes us uniquely human, and not everyone wants to read about small moments! Some people want stories about battles and adventures, magic and drama! Right now, all your writing is practice and one of the best ways to practice making the kinds of things you like to read is to imitate writers who do it well. It’s not stealing. It’s learning.


On story-telling: 

Arnold: The thing about being a human, is that children are whole people already. They are not practiced people or partial people, or vessels waiting to be filled. Children are whole people, and at a very young age, almost immediately, they’ve experienced so many of the core human emotions, right? Love, contentedness, fear, anger. The things that make us human, make all of us human.

Elana K. Arnold was interviewed virtually for #OneBookConnects

From children all the way to one hundred and four year old wonderful people like Beverly Cleary. So I think paying attention to the things that make us essentially human, those human core emotions, and centering them in your writing, paying attention and writing about them is enough. A book, a story, does not have to be a grand adventure that takes place in a far away space with dragons— although I love those books, too. A true story about what it feels like to be locked in your house with your baby sister on day seventeen of the pandemic, and what happened on that day is enough. It’s a whole world, so all the major human experiences kiddos, you have them already. You are a human, and a storyteller already. You don’t have to wait to be a grown-up to tell your story. You don’t have to wait until your spelling and your handwriting are perfect to tell your story…I am just a teller of stories, so all you have to do, children, is tell your story. And if you continue to tell stories then gain momentum over time, and over time, if you want to share your stories in various ways, you can do so. Zoom is actually a great way to share stories. So you don’t need to think that because you can’t make a whole packaged book, you’re not a writer. You’re a storyteller if you tell stories, even if you don’t put them on paper. And all of us, I think, are storytellers— stories connect us all. 

You can find the full-length version of each author interview on our Digital Resource Hub, here.

Celebrate D.E.A.R. Day With Us!

Have you found yourself overwhelmed? Loads of chores to do? Tired after a long day? Well, why don’t you just Drop Everything And Read! 

D.E.A.R. Day was established to encourage readers young and old to make reading a priority. Further, organizers hope that families find themselves motivated to put aside all distractions and enjoy reading a book together.  That first step can lead to rewarding new reading habits that last a lifetime. 

D.E.A.R. Day was first inspired by a passage from the beloved book, Romona Quimby, Age 8 (1981), by Beverly Cleary. It’s why D.E.A.R. Day is nationally celebrated in tandem with Cleary’s birthday every April.

You can celebrate and carry Beverly Cleary’s legacy forward with a number of classics, such as the Ramona Quimby, the Henry Huggins, or the Ralph S. Mouse series. Whether you’re reading a picture book, a graphic novel, or a chapter book, take some time out of your day to enjoy a story. But don’t just Drop Everything And Read today— by finding time in your schedule for a great book, you can make reading a daily hobby. 









Looking for ways to celebrate D.E.A.R. Day?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Read Aloud – Settle in with a book of your choice and read it aloud for at least 15 minutes. With our reading tips, you can make reading aloud a fun activity for the whole family on D.E.A.R. Day – and beyond.
  • Shared Space Reading – If you prefer to read independently, but still want to spend time with your family, select your own books and read together in a shared space. At the end of your reading period, take a few minutes to share what you read about. You might find yourself interested in trading books! 
  • Library Visit – Take a trip to your public library. Most libraries allow you to check out at least ten books at a time, but if you don’t have a library card, it’s a short, easy process that will grant you access to your library’s collection of books, music, and movies. 
  • Roundabout Retelling – Once you’ve read a section from your book of choice, take a few minutes to talk about what you’ve read. Share your favorite parts – the scenes that stood out, the language or imagery that touched you, or a piece of dialogue that made you laugh. So long as you’re spending time with the text and sharing your thoughts, you’re doing it right! 
  • Writing Prompts – This is your opportunity to be creative. Imagine the story from the point of view of another character. Write about how you would act if you were suddenly dropped into the book you’re reading. Or maybe write a short story of your own! Then, share that work by either reading it aloud or letting a family member take a look. 
  • Reflections – If you prefer to keep your thoughts between you and the text, jot down your impressions in a notebook. Here, you can discuss anything you’d like — what about your reading excites you? How does the main character resonate with you? What about the plot or characters encouraged you to find out what happened next? It can even be as simple as sharing a few sentences about what you’ve read. If you keep it up, you may even find yourself in the habit of keeping a reading journal! 

Banks Sponsor Schools in Virginia Reads One Book 2021

The Virginia Reads One Book program has been a huge hit with families and schools since its launch in 2018. Though the program was presented digitally for its fourth run, it didn’t stop students across Virginia from spending three weeks getting to know the cast of E.B. White’s timeless classic, The Trumpet of the Swan. The novel also serves as a Financial Literacy title, planting the seeds for positive personal finance lessons just in time for Financial Literacy Month in April. 

Copies of Trumpet were received at Buckingham County Elementary by principal, Bryan Jackson (left)

For the 2021 reading event, 19 schools across the state were sponsored by Virginia banks and the Virginia Bankers Association (VBA) Education Foundation.

According to Monica McDearmon, a manager of communications and financial education at the VBA, the state of Virginia is “leading the charge in personal finance and economics education thanks to efforts from banks, teachers, school administrators, and other organizations that promote financial literacy in Virginia.”

Participating banks were eager to offer their aid in providing students and their families a fun, creative way to participate in VAROB at home.

“The VBA Education Foundation provided links of recordings of chapter readings to participating schools,”  said McDearmon. She adds that bank sponsors were able to offer their support both virtually and in-person: “Our banks were encouraged to be involved at kick-off ceremonies; provide trivia prizes to students; serve as guest readers; and present financial literacy lessons that correlated to the themes of the book.”

Though the 2021 program’s launch differs from previous reading events, Michelle Mogel from TowneBank Richmond views the digital aspects as a strength. Covid-19 has allowed the banks to broaden their support to “middle and high school students,” said Mogel. “We have been sharing lessons about balancing family budgets (income-vs-expenses) and careers in banking.”

The overarching belief among each sponsor is that children are never too young to learn about the importance of smart financial decisions.

FirstBank employee looking eager to dive into all things Financial Literacy

“Learning to make wise choices with money and the importance of saving are just as important as habits like brushing our teeth and eating fruits and vegetables,” says Mogel. “Empowering children with responsible financial behavior will help them discern the confusing messages about spending in our culture.”

McDearmon adds that planting these seeds early can aid students in navigating how to “manage money and make good financial decisions [that] will ensure that they grow up to be educated consumers.”

Christian S. Kent of Chesapeake Bank points out that Financial Literacy has a vital role in poverty reduction.

“It is important for parents and children to understand money basics, to learn how to manage finances well, and make better lifestyle decisions,” says Kent. “VAROB strengthens these efforts by uniting parents and schools for more consistent messaging and shared activities that hopefully provide positive bonds to family and also money beliefs. Financial literacy teaches children important skills as they develop and hopefully refreshes the parents and encourages more conversations.”

Students were eager to delve into this E.B. White classic!

In The Trumpet of the Swan, students follow the story of Louis, a Trumpeter Swan who is born without a voice.  During the book he works a series of jobs – camp bugler, entertaining the Boston Swan Boats, at a jazz club in Philadelphia – and earns the money to pay for the trumpet that gives him a voice.  Along the way students get a great lesson in earning and savings – inspired by this intrepid swan.


The text is layered with many other great financial literacy themes, says McDearmon. She points out that these topics include “the difference between needs and wants; the importance of saving; understanding money; profits and losses; and goods and services.”

Finances can be intimidating. Budgeting, earning money, working a job, and making purchases are things everyone has to learn at one point in their lives. By participating in VAROB, these Financial Literacy building blocks are presented in a format that is equal parts fun, encouraging, and helpful, as students build their knowledge of basic economic concepts. 

Kent goes on to add that, “Financial challenges also create an opportunity to learn new skills and models in which to live by.” It reinforces the idea that though students may face a multitude of challenges in their lives, by learning and using these skills, students can curate a toolkit that will “better prepare them for success in the future.”

VAROB 2022 will launch in March of next year. Read to Them, the VBA Education Foundation, and the plethora of bank sponsors are already looking ahead, eager to further enrich communities across Virginia with long-lasting Financial Literacy lessons.

Take a Journey ‘Into the Wardrobe’

“Salutations are greetings,” said the voice.

“When I say ‘salutations,’ it’s just my fancy way

of saying hello or good morning.”

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White


This past year has brought unprecedented changes to both our home and school lives. With greater frequency, people have turned to books as a means of solace and escape, sharing stories as a way of maintaining a vital piece of human connection that’s been lost during the age of COVID-19. 

Read to Them is constantly striving to promote ways to expose educators, families, and students to the world of language and the pleasures of reading. In an effort to further these endeavors, Read to Them is launching Into the Wardrobe

Into the Wardrobe is designed to support Read to Them’s mission to create a culture of literacy in every home. Here, we’ll highlight schools across the country — and even some of our friends abroad! — who have participated in our programs as well as some of our community partners. We’ll be sharing exclusive interviews with authors from our book list, highlighting literacy-based holidays, and taking you behind the scenes of Read to Them in a way we’ve never done previously. Best of all, we’ll be curating pieces designed as building blocks for families to further support the love of reading and literacy across the country. 

Posts will begin rolling out next Friday. See you soon!