st-stephensAs a children’s book author, I have found it incredibly important to be active in schools as my audience is there 75% of the year.  Yet that being said, how do you make it worth the teacher’s time? One of the key things I like to do upon reading a book to the students is not only talk about it, but by posing the question “Who here likes to write?”

When my illustrator and I frequented libraries, I’d ask that question and basically get blank looks on the children’s faces, but when my illustrator asked “Who likes to draw?” practically every hand went up in the air. That’s when I realized the need for writing encouragement.

Every child has an imagination, the key is using it (and using it proactively). Obviously they are great at making up stories.  They can entertain themselves with their favorite dolls or action figures, but what they don’t know is that if they took that imagination one step farther and put their idea to paper – they are writing. …and so are you.

So now, when I go to the schools, I ask the children, who likes to write and when no hands go up (or that amazing single hand does) I follow up that question with “Who here has woken up in the middle of an awesome dream and wanted to get back to sleep again to finish it but couldn’t find where they left off? Every hand in the room shoots up in the air.

That’s when the conversation begins.

“I dreamed I was…” and when they are done, I say “so if you had your way, how would that dream have continued?” They not only answer but the other children chime in.  They literally help each other write these stories.
“Who here has watched a TV show, movie or read a story and didn’t like the end?  How would you have changed it?”
“What was your favorite movie?” They fill in the blank. “What would that character be doing today if that story continued on?”

By the time I am done, the gears in their little heads are spinning at full speed and many times, the teachers allow for writing time when they get back to class.

At their age, it doesn’t matter WHAT they are writing about, what matters is that they ARE writing.

My dream is to encourage every child to write.  We all have a story in us, whether it be non-fiction or fiction, happy, sad, scary or fun.  We all have imaginations, so why not use them?