Author Erin Dealey answers three questions she has always wanted to be asked in this special CBC Website Feature!Do you purposely write with #diversity and #inclusion in mind?
Yes and no…
No—in that I don’t purposely think of these as “trends” that I should follow so my books are relevant. Yes–always–because to me, diversity and inclusion are a way of life. I see my characters as parts of the crazy-quilt way I grew up–in a household of acceptance, in a middle-class neighborhood in Oakland, CA. We played together, went to school together, and respected each other’s opinions and cultures–long before diversity or inclusion became hashtags. Today’s readers are becoming citizens of the world and books should show the rich fabric of their neighborhoods, families, and lives, both different and alike. I write because stories and characters fill my brain and I’m lucky to be able to share some of them. I love writing books that connect with today’s young readers. Every child should be able to find themselves in books.
What are 3 things you’ve learned about raising (and teaching) readers?
- Monkey see, monkey do. My mom used to say this, and it’s still true today. If kids see their parents and teachers with their noses in books, they will want to do the same. We didn’t have many children’s books in our house when I was growing up, but my parents and sister read the newspaper every night. I remember pretending I was reading too. That’s how it starts. Monkey see, monkey do.
- Read aloud every day. I learned this as a parent and a teacher. By reading aloud, you don’t just teach comprehension, expression, and syntax. More importantly, when you read a book aloud, your listeners feel the magic and unity of a common experience. It’s like watching a play or any kind of live performance. The audience feels special because you’re spending quality time with them. In a way books give readers the same go-to feelings as “comfort food” – no matter how old you are. (And with fewer calories…)
- Raising writers = Raising readers. As an author and teacher I’ve begun to wonder why we don’t approach these subjects the same way. After all, what we write is reading. As a student, I didn’t think I could write because the formats and all the rules intimidated me. As an English teacher, the writing process helped, but honestly even that feels restricting. We have free-reads, so why not try free-writes? Take the pressure off of both teacher and student. Let students write to themselves; write to each other; write to an author; write to the world. Instead of writing for a grade, what if students earn points by completing these assignments – whether they are full of errors or not. After several assignments, have the students choose the one from their portfolio to revise and polish for a letter grade. Students who enjoy writing, and see it as a means of sharing their stories and opinions, will begin to look at reading differently.
What can authors do for librarians and book sellers?
As authors, we often expect librarians and booksellers to make a big deal about our new books because hey – that’s their job, right? Let’s flip those expectations and see what happens. I love getting to know librarians and booksellers. These wonderful, very busy people LOVE words, or they wouldn’t be doing what they do. (Pretty sure they aren’t in it for the money.) Authors can ask themselves, “What can I do to make their jobs easier?”
- Create a coloring page or easy reproducible activity to go with your book. Include your signature and website on it. Before you send it, copy and paste their logo on the bottom with the words: I met (author name) at (book store or school name). This way, kids who can’t afford to buy your books will still get an autograph.
- If you have a social media platform, give booksellers some love. Share your favorite books with their customers (not just your own). Likewise with librarians and their students. I often “book talk” a few current, age-appropriate titles during Skype chats or school visits. Show students YOU love to read too!
- Speaking of author visits, give librarians an option to order your books through their local bookseller. Often times, local Indies and/or the CRM at local B&Ns will agree to give schools a discount. This is a win-win situation for all. If you want to take it one step further, put your local bookstore link on your website so that people can order signed copies of your books through them, and when they get an order, they can call you to come in and sign it before sending it to their customer.
- Keep your website updated with a bio and photos booksellers and librarians can use to help promote your book. If students were doing an author study on you, could they find the right information? (While we’re on the subject, be sure your name is your brand — and not some cutesy catchphrase that’s hard to find.)
And a Bonus! Do all of your ideas end up as books?
I’ll let my dog Max answer this for me: https://youtu.be/iDYBGTQ3shs
About Erin Dealey
Besides teaching theater and English for decades, Erin Dealey’s résumé includes lifeguard, maid at Yosemite National Park, book store manager, and actor in a children’s theater troupe. She claims to have lasted an entire day on the assembly line at the Dole Pineapple Factory on Oahu, Hawaii, and is sure you’ve seen her in commercials and maybe even in a couple of movies!
These days, as an author of fiction for kids from toddlers to teens, she’s in great demand as a presenter at elementary and middle schools, making more than thirty visits annually. She’s also a motivational speaker and regular language arts workshop leader for teachers and students of all ages through literacy organizations, universities and SCBWI. In 2011, she was honored with the Celebrate Literacy award bestowed by the International Reading Association.
Erin makes her home in California, along with her husband and their golden retriever, Charlie.