Children's book authors and illustrators are like celebrities to kids. When they don't watch visual media or listen to music as much as older kids or parents, the people who create those favorite books are really big deals. Really big. They are the people who created some of their favorite fantasy characters and worlds.
Engaging the groupI enjoy hearing authors read from their work, so why wouldn't my kids? If anything, it's more important to take the kids to such events so they can associate real people with their favorite inanimate objects. It makes the books even more real to them, if that's possible. And they can learn about and see that one can make a rewarding living doing what they love.
At the library, we first did a scavenger hunt based on a character from the book, then made bookplates and completed book-themed puzzles. It was amusing and heartening to note the number of kids who would stop in the stacks, looking for the next item on the scavenger hunt list, but then get distracted by some other book they had found -- several scavenger hunt lists were not completed. Then everyone gathered for a special reading by the author and a question and answer session.
As the author read his book and pointed out secrets in the illustrations, the kids were rapt. They were in awe - and especially when he brought out a couple of his original paintings for the book. He also brought out a drawing that he did in second grade; it gave even me hope. You never would have known from that decades old drawing that the artist would really become an artist! The author talked about his process. He answered questions with warmth and patience, and encouraged every child there to try some thing new and practice what they love. It was a really lovely time.
Engaging the individualAt the end of the time, the author signed books -- and as many books as each individual wanted -- with even more patience and a smile for each kid. While he was signing what will be six Christmas gifts for the children of friends and family, he engaged Sunshine and Woody with questions and more encouragement.
Just as I often come away from readings by my favorite authors energized and inspired, so did my kids come away from this event. Sunshine wanted her crayons as soon as we arrived home, and I could almost see the cogs moving around in Woody's head. It reminded me that I should find these opportunities more often for them. Keep an eye out at your local library and local book stores. You never quite know who will show up for a reading and a book signing, and what level of inspiration -- will ensue.