November is National Family Literacy Month. Many libraries and schools across Missouri are observing this with events and learning opportunities. I kicked off the month by attending the St. Louis Indie Book Fair where I met several Missouri-based children’s authors.
It’s important adults encourage children to read every day, not just when a calendar instructs us to do so. And by introducing children to a local author, I think that shows a child the goal of publishing is within reach for those who have a talent and desire to do so. While your child may enjoy reading classic books by Beverly Cleary (now 102 years old), it’s a good chance they will not meet her.
Local authors are not only accessible to libraries and schools, every one of them I’ve met search for opportunities to speak to young readers to share their talents. Yes, authors hope to sell copies of their book, but it is much more than a marketing strategy. Many kidlit authors — myself included — are parents, so they know the importance of encouraging kids to read. Writing also can be a solitary occupation, so getting out into the community is critical for an author to interact with his/her audience; this often provides important feedback for the author, who then might apply that information to the next project.
And, perhaps most importantly, we come back to the original point: Supporting local authors connects children to published writers, thus encouraging creativity within that child.
You’ve (happily) found Show•Me Adventure Kids books, but allow me to do brief introductions to a few Missouri-based children’s authors.
LONNIE WHITAKER in 2017 published his first children’s book after more than 10 years writing and editing adult non-fiction. Mulligan Meets the Poodlums (illustrations by Kristina Jack Young) is a picture book about a chili-loving tomcat (Mulligan) who has to learn to live with two poodle puppies. It offers a lesson about channeling our fears into positive outcomes. And if you ask Mulligan in a nice way, he’ll share his chili recipe with you. www.lonniewhitaker.com
DEBBIE MANBER KUPFER has published several children’s picture books and is an accomplished puzzle creator. In Adana the Earth Dragon, Debbie weaves a magical tale about a small brown dragon who can do big things. No wonder the book resonates with young readers who may need reminding being small can be a powerful thing. Illustrations are by Tina Wijesiri. www.debbiemanberkupfer.wordpress.com
RALPH WAYNE FREER is an artist who has written two children’s books: Piper’s Posse and The Abbreviated Life and Times of Iggy Skunk. Piper is a story about friendship and working together, while Iggy is a tale of a skunk who saves a forest (there’s that small but mighty theme again). Ralph's grandchild, I believe, provided illustrations for Piper. Wooden characters — Tug Bullfrog and Topper Bee-Hopper — go along with Ray to schools and libraries for readings. www.flyingfgallery.com
While she may be an Illinois resident, MILLIE FLORENCE actively participates in St. Louis-area book events. She published her first book, Honey Butter, at age 13. That was last year; she’s working on a second book, and I have to confess, this home-schooled student can teach all of us a thing or two about following your passion and dreams. She saved her money to print her coming-of-age story, actively markets her book at events both in person and online, and holds workshops for young writers. Just speaking to this young lady for a few minutes left quite an impression on me. www.millieflorence.com
This month, introduce a new book — perhaps by a local author — to your children. Time spent reading together is the best part of a family’s busy day.