by Tom Burns
That’s an easy thing to say, isn’t it?
“Your kid should meet their favorite author!”
But it’s not always the easiest thing to do.
In fact, sometimes, it’s literally impossible to do — particularly if your child’s favorite author is E.B. White or A.A. Milne. And, if the author is still alive, sometimes geography and/or fame just makes the chances of a meet-and-greet impossible. (I recognize that the likelihood of my daughter getting to see J.K. Rowling in person is fairly low.)
That being said, there ARE so many opportunities for children to interact with authors they love. Book fairs, library events, bookstore readings — authors head out on the road to market their works more often than you might think. And, if you’re the parent of a book-loving kid, it becomes your job to become aware of those events, so your kid doesn’t find out that “OMG, my favorite author ever was at the library yesterday and we didn’t even know!”
Can it be a lot of work to find these author events? Yes. Is the experience of attending worth all that effort? YES. YES, YES, YES.
If you’re not sure that you want to brave the lines at your local bookstore to have your kid meet the creator of that new book or series they love, here are five reasons why meeting an author has the potential to be one of the coolest experiences your kid will ever have:
1. It humanizes their heroes.
Kids develop a really intimate relationship with authors they love. They see the name Rick Riordan or Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Brad Meltzer or Matt de la Peña on a book cover and, from that name alone, they know, “That book is for ME. That’s MY kind of book.” That’s a powerful connection that only gets deeper once your child has the opportunity to see the author in person.
Last summer, I was lucky enough to get to take my daughter to an event to meet Kate DiCamillo, an author she’d been calling her “favorite writer EVER” since she was six years old. I can’t describe to you what happened to my daughter’s face when Kate walked into the room. There was a flash of recognition, then disbelief, then one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen.
It was like watching someone meet an old pen-pal or long-distance acquaintance for the first time. It was magical.
2. There’s nothing like hearing an author read their own work.
Often, when you’re at an author event, you get the privilege of hearing an author read their work aloud. Maybe it’s a chapter from a new book, maybe it’s a short passage from an old favorite. Regardless, there is something wonderful about hearing a writer read their own writing to a large group of children.
It really is fantastic to hear the person who created a fictional world bring it to life with their own voice. They know how to hit all the jokes just right. They bring emotion and depth to pauses you never anticipated on your own. For a kid, it’s like watching an act of creation right in front of them. It’s unbelievable.
3. It lets your kids know “I could do that TOO!”
When your kid gets to see their favorite author in the flesh for the first time, it’s a strange moment. It’s almost like seeing a fictional character brought to life.
But that’s why this is a great experience for kids — because it lets them know that authors AREN’T fictional. They’re real. They’re just like you or me and, most importantly, just like THEM. When a child realizes that an author they adore is just a normal person, it reminds them that they’re capable of creating the exact same kinds of things. They can be a writer too, just like that oddly normal person signing books at the front of the line.
4. Autographs mean something.
Your child met the person who created that book they loved, and they have PROOF. The author might’ve even written your kid’s name in the inscription as well. It might just be a signature, but it means so much to the person who gets to carry that signed copy of the book around with them for the rest of their lives.
(And, if you meet an author who is also an illustrator, sometimes they draw sketches too! My daughter still can’t get over that Lane Smith actually sketched a picture of the title character of one of her favorite books, Grandpa Green, on the title page of her copy. She will keep that book FOREVER.)
5. It gives them a more personal connection to their favorite books.
As I mentioned, these chances to meet authors aren’t always possible. Sometimes, they only happen in big cities or, sometimes, your child’s favorite writers are already dead.
But, when the opportunity arises, if your child has the chance to meet the author of a book they love, that experience burns that book into your kid’s brain for the rest of their life. The book is elevated. It’s not just a better-than-average read. It becomes a book they now have history with. It’s a book that allowed them behind the scenes. A book that let them meet its author, ask a question, maybe get an autograph.
I’m not saying that meeting an author will always be a phantasmagorical experience. Maybe your kid will be shy. Or the author will be grumpy. Or the lines will just be way too long.
But, if you’re lucky, if your kid gets to meet a person who wrote a book they loved, that book will become a part of your child’s personal history in a way that most creative works never will.
So, if you have the opportunity to take your kid to an author signing, believe me, it’s worth it.