The Best of #OneBookConnects Author Interviews

April 23, 2021

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! 

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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.