Thursday, September 8, 2011

Inspiring Young People to Write by Katie Hines

By Katie Hines

I know of a lot of authors who say they find inspiration from their every walk of life, that indeed, it reaches out and grabs them, and even says, “Write about me!” But how do we inspire young readers and writers to become budding authors?

One great way is to talk to the children’s librarian to see if you can be a part of your library summer reading program, or ask him/her if you can set up school time classes in the local branches and share about your writing and how you became inspired to write.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of the summer reading program in the branches of my county library branches. One thing that is great about the summer reading program is that, although you want to do some advance promoting, many day care centers and reading groups or families participate in the summer reading program and it is promoted by the libraries themselves. My local county library bought several copies of my books and placed them in all the branches I spoke in. One group of kids that came were being read my book by their teachers.

The key to a successful library visit, I found out early, is to be prepared and flexible. When you speak of a summer reading program, or an after school library presentation, be aware that you will have kids show up from ages 3 to 13 or older! If you’re only prepared to speak to older kids, then you’re going to have a problem when young children from a day care show up.

The first two groups I spoke to were middle grade kids, which is what my book, Guardian, was aimed at. At the next library, I was surprised to have a bumper crop of 6-7 year olds. Yikes! What to do? Good thing I could think on my feet. I immediately mentally revamped my presentation, which talked about the major elements of a story.

Interaction with the kids and keeping them engaged is paramount. So, I went from child to child, got their names and asked if they liked to read or not. Almost without exception, they said they loved to read! I then asked them what they liked to read and what their favorite books were and heard about some classics, and some not-so-well known books/authors.

I was able to use a much watered-down version of my presentation where I talked about where to get ideas for a story, asking them for their ideas for stories. Then, I had paper and pencils with me, and for the older kids, I started a sentence, and then had them use that sentence and write a fictional paragraph. When they were done, I read several of them to the group. That was a big hit. In keeping with the treasure motif, I ended the class with a reading of the treasure story from my book. The kids drank it up and we had a great time.

Utilizing hand outs, if possible, is also a great way for them to remember your presentation (hand out at the end of the sessions). I had a ton of bookmarks with me, and some hard candy, business cards (for the adults accompanying them), a sell sheet, and a few pirate pins. Once I realized that I was going to have younger kids to deal with in the remaining presentations, before my next visit, I went to my “samples” box of items I’d ordered online for school and book store visits. My book includes a treasure story. And, what is more wonderful to a kid than a treasure hunt and the lure of beckoning jewels, pirates and a divine destiny? So, I created treasure chests filled with “gold” coins, pencils, pirate buttons, more bookmarks, and some hard, individually wrapped candies. Naturally, those were given out at the end of the presentation, and the kids were thrilled. At one visit, I gave out more than 25 of these treasure chests.

One of the highlights for me came at the end of my last presentation where a 6-7 year old asked me if she could write something and I would look at it and mail it back to her! So, I believe the whole visits were effective and inspirational.

So, although there can be many sources of inspiration for budding authors, one way for the author to inspire children is through participating in your library’s summer reading program, and library presentations during the school year.

Katie Hines is the author of the middle grade urban fantasy, Guardian” published by 4RVPublishing. It can be ordered from, and from both Amazon ( and Barnes & Noble ( in both print and ebook format for Kindle and Nook. Be sure and visit the author’s blog at and website at

1 comment:

Mike Hays said...

Great tip about being flexible for library visits due to a variety of potential age groups. Very good advice.