Children’s Book Week is the longest running literacy celebration in the nation! We at zulily are happy to participate by gathering together a new selection of books each day this week, focused on different age groups.
To celebrate, zulily sat down with authors Kim Baker and Terra Lynn Childs, and illustrator Sara Anderson to talk about how they got their start in the literary world and the importance of reading with children.
zulily: What inspired you to become an author/illustrator?
Kim Baker: I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl! I loved books and reading so much. I would write stories for fun, submit poems to the local newspaper’s contest, and I had a notebook to write down observations about neighbors and local events à la Harriet the Spy. I read every chance I got, and even made a deal with the school librarian to help shelve books and dust in the library in exchange for recommendations and having it all to myself. My parents were always really supportive of my writing and reading, and I spent my formative years in libraries, comic shops, and bookstores. Some of my best, most vivid, early memories are of reading.
Tera Lynn Childs: My path to writing was a winding one. Growing up I was always into math and science and I thought I hated reading. After getting degrees in Theatre and Historic Preservation, I found myself basically housesitting for my parents in the country while they traveled for work. It was during all this alone time that I first found my love of reading. I would head to the bookstore and bring home a stack of romance novels every week and just devour them. It was this late-blooming passion for reading that eventually led me to think about writing my own stories.
Sara Anderson: Ever since I was very little, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I always said “an artist” (if only I had known)! I studied art all of my life - drawing, painting, printmaking, and graphic arts. By the time I looked to pursue children’s books, I was already a designer and working as an illustrator. I compiled all of my story ideas with characters I had created and at the first meeting they okayed 7 book ideas! I started with NUMBERS, they added COLORS, and 3 years later they were books. The author part happened because I worked so fast, there wasn’t time to find and get a writer on board, so it turned out I had to do it, myself. Now I really like playing with words, trying to make them into magic groupings.
zulily: Why is it important for young people to read/ to read to kids?
Kim Baker: Reading gives us a window on the world. We can gain understanding of situations and settings that we would otherwise never have access to. Even stories that are seemingly silly or fantastical can help kids learn about solving problems, friendship, loyalty, and coping with issues, It’s important to read with kids and to allow them to make their own choices, book-wise. We never “make” our kids read anything, but we encourage them to mix it up and try new things. The tendency at this age can be to reread something familiar rather than try something new, but there’s always a new favorite just waiting on the shelf.
Tera Lynn Childs: Reading is a gateway to so much of life. Whether it’s succeeding in school, getting a good job, or just escaping to another life through a book, reading is a fundamental part of our society. And if we want to raise readers, we have to offer them stories they actually want to read. I hated reading as a teen because I hated most of the books we had to read for school. As Walt Disney once said, “I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.”
Sara Anderson: Reading opens worlds and sets the imagination to dream and run wild. As a child you can be anything and do anything, in stories. It allows freedom that children might need from their real world constraints (i.e. like being able to fly).
zulily: How do you incorporate reading together into a busy family routine?
Kim Baker: It can be tricky, but I think a lot of it is about making choices and setting routines. My son will ask if he can bring his iPod to play games in the car while we’re driving around town, and nine times out of ten I’ll tell him to grab a book instead. Their dad and I take turns reading to each of them at bedtime. It’s a great way to connect and wind down after a busy day. If there’s an issue at school, a bully, a deployed parent, a new kid in class with some different limitations, picking a book that deals with those issues is a great way to gain perspective. Plus, I get to share my favorites! Laughing our way through Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is a memory that I’ll hold dear forever.
Sara Anderson: I like bedtime reading because it brings the day to an end in a nice wind-down kind of way (and prolongs having to go to sleep). When a parent is reading, it’s the child’s time to absorb attention being intently on them through storytelling. It can be intimate and relays the message that engagement matters. Doing it at night allows for the entering of other worlds and opens the mind of dreams. Magic.
About Kim Baker
Kim Baker’s debut middle grade novel, PICKLE, is a Junior Library Guild Selection, one of the New York Public Library’s 2012 Best Books for Reading and Sharing, the 2013 Crystal Kite West Winner, and a finalist for the 2013 Children’s Choice Awards, Book of the Year for 5th-6th grade. Kim’s second grade teacher said she’d be a writer someday, and by the time Kim figured out that her teacher probably told everyone that, her heart was set. She lives in Seattle with her family and a few furry creatures, where she is working on her next book. You can see more at www.kimbakerbooks.com
About Tera Lynn Childs
Tera Lynn Childs is the award-winning young adult author of the mythology-based Oh. My. Gods. and Goddess Boot Camp, the mermaid tales Forgive My Fins, Fins Are Forever and Just For Fins, and a thrilling trilogy about monster-hunting descendants of Medusa that includes Sweet Venom, Sweet Shadows, and Sweet Legacy (September 3, 2013). She has epublished two fun chick lit romances, Eye Candy and Straight Stalk, and has two e-novellas coming soon from HarperCollins. Tera lives nowhere in particular and spends her time writing wherever she can find a comfy chair and a steady stream of caffeinated beverages. See more on her website here: teralynnchilds.com.
About Sara Anderson
After spending years and years drawing and painting, making quilts, doing textile design, paper collage, weaving, and designing products for children and adults in a studio much bigger than her house, Sara has settled into storytelling as the one thread that encompasses all the other strands of her life and makes a tapestry of disparate experiences, selves, travels, lives, and talents. She has been getting her “Ph.D” in the narrative for the past dozen years or so.