As one of the four founding members of KidLit Parade, I am part of a wonderful group of authors, narrators, teachers, artists and creatives who have come together to support one another. This is a group where we put book marketing and promotion aside (unless that is a topic opened for discussion) and focus on how we can promote literacy. Part of the responsibilities of the founders is to come up with a new theme each month. This month’s theme is Reader Letters. A subject that we all feel strongly about as authors.

Safety First

Before I go any further, it is important to state that an author should never initiate contact with a child or elicit a letter without parental permission or school involvement. This must be overseen by an adult responsible for the child. A child’s safety should always be your first and foremost concern. With that said….

A child’s letter

When a child invests the time to write to an author, I feel it is our responsibility to answer that letter. Whether it is one child sending a letter or a whole classroom. The reason? Think back. When you were a child, how would it have felt to have received a letter from the author of the book you just finished reading? Yeah, pretty amazing! That is a memory a child won’t soon forget.

Notify parents and teachers of your policies

Most of the time, teachers or parents will not know your policy in regards to letters. It may or may not be on your website. Do you include that information in your letter to the school?  It is always easier for you to make the offer than it is for them to ask. They may not want to intrude on any more of your time or they may not even realize your willingness to write to the students.

AUTHOR TIP!

When creating your classroom activity worksheets be sure to include a form letter! This is a wonderful opportunity to encourage and mentor children.

Plus, the added benefit is that they’ll learn how to write a letter. It is yet another easy way for you to promote early literacy. Sounds simple, right? It is!

In the example below, the teacher had the student working on two separate skills:  Letter writing and computers. Go Mrs. S.!  

To see a copy of my Teacher Resources, including my form letter, subscribe to the newsletter today and you will be sent an automatic download link.

Outside the classroom

There are several different ways that may initiate your receiving a letter.

  • Sometimes it will be completely spontaneous. This usually happens when you have had previous one-on-one contact with a child through a parent, teacher, or online order. I keep a post office box for this express purpose.
  • You might be contacted by someone you’ve been introduced to before. This typically happens when you have attended an author event.
  • A stranger may also ask you for your mailing address. Again, this is where having a post office box comes into play. If I receive a random request without any prior contact, and depending on the situation, I will ask the parent or guardian if they prefer email or snail mail. I tend to think a child gets more excited over receiving something in the mail versus something in their inbox. It goes along with the old idea of “pen pals.” Remember how excited you used to get when you were a child and received a letter? There is just something special about it. I still get excited when I receive a card or letter from a friend. It instantly brings a smile to my face. However, this is always at the discretion of the child’s parent or guardian.

Make it a priority

We are all strapped for time! Many of us have full-time jobs in addition to being an author. But let’s face it, when you decided to become a children’s author you didn’t do it for the money–well, unless you’re lucky enough to be one of the few children’s authors whose series have hit the big time. You did it because you wanted to do something special for a child. To share the gift of reading. So take it one step further and respond to any letters you receive.

If you truly are unable to write individual letters due to time restraints, please try to address a letter to the classroom as a whole. The children will appreciate your effort more than you know!

I promise, you will feel just as rewarded as the child. The letters I’ve received have moved me from laughter to tears, and each is dear to my heart.

Feedback

Take the time to really read each child’s letter. They are providing you with invaluable insight. Children don’t have filters. They will tell you exactly what they like and what they don’t. Use this information to craft your next book. Consider them your personal focus group. After all, they are your target audience!

Still unsure if it’s worth the work?

I have a box of letters, note cards and special ‘gifts’ I have received. They are all precious to me. It tells me I’m doing something right–and sometimes, what I’m doing wrong. One of the most touching gifts I have received was after a classroom Skype visit. When I opened the box it brought an instant smile to my face because it contained a book the class wrote together and they had cared enough to send me a copy. That smile turned to tears when I opened the book and found the inscription:

I can’t even begin to tell you what those words meant to me. I thought I was the one sharing the gift of reading, but in reality, it turned out I was the recipient. I shall never forget that class or Mrs. D. for their thoughtfulness.

 


Mentoring a child is easy. Responding to their letter is the first step. One small action can play a vital role in helping to create life-long readers and learners. Make the commitment today.

If you have a specific question or comment in regards to this topic, please post a comment. Let me know how I can help you as an author get started on the path of making a difference in a child’s life.

Warmest regards,

K. Lamb