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Authors in April celebrates 30 years in Rochester

ROCHESTER — Through the magic of books, the Rochester-based Authors in April program has been connecting children with famous authors and illustrators for 30 years.

To celebrate the milestone, the public is invited to participate in a free Authors in April Community Scavenger Hunt 10 a.m.-1 p.m. April 13 in downtown Rochester.

“The whole intent of the scavenger hunt is just to be a fun event to generate excitement about our 30th anniversary this year, and we thought it would be great to hold it in our wonderful downtown and send traffic to the businesses,” said Lisa Wattai, an Authors in April executive board member who also serves as the program’s participant chair at Musson Elementary School.

The scavenger hunt will begin at the Rochester Hills Public Library, where families will be given some clues and a map that will lead them to various businesses downtown. Inside the businesses, families will find answers to questions about Authors in April books and authors that they can record on their handout. Along the way, Wattai said, “trinkets” will be given to kids, and all participants will be entered in a book basket raffle. The first 200 children to finish the scavenger hunt will receive a commemorative Authors in April button.

From April 8 until the end of the month, the public can view an exhibit about the program’s 30th year at the Rochester Hills Public Library.

Founded in 1984 by a small group of local community leaders, Authors in April Inc. coordinates the Rochester-area Authors in April program — which is now a yearlong effort on the part of Rochester Community Schools and private school parents, educators, and the Rochester Hills Public Library to bring highly regarded children’s authors to all of the community’s elementary and middle school students.

The program, according to Wattai, is designed to encourage students to become lifelong readers, improve their own creative writing ability, and develop greater appreciation, understanding and discernment for quality literature and art. In the early years, three authors were invited to visit elementary school students over a period of three days. The program has since expanded to include middle schools, and the authors’ stay was lengthened to five days. Organizers say the Rochester-based Authors in April program is now the only one of its size and scope in the country.

“Our program here in Rochester is the only program we know of nationally that hosts the authors for an entire week and sends them to 20 different schools. Every author that comes through is just amazed at how well our program is run and how engaged and knowledgeable the students are,” Wattai explained. “In our 30 years, we’ve had 96 authors come, so this year, we will have our 97th 98th, 99th and 100th author visit students, which is kind of fun.”

From April 22 to April 26, author/illustrator John Rocco will visit kindergarten and first-grade students, author Betty G. Birney will meet with second- and third-grade students, author Sarah Weeks will visit fourth- and fifth-grade students, and author Jordan Sonnenblick will meet with middle school students in Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township.

“The authors share with the students how they became authors and also their struggles as an author, because it doesn’t come easily,” said Authors in April Vice Chair Jenny DeCuir. “We’ve heard from the kids that that’s one of the things that really means the most to them now.”

Each participating school will also celebrate the program’s anniversary by having each child who reads a participating authors’ book sign a four-foot-tall bookmark board, which will be on display during an Authors in April benefit dinner.

“All of the kids throughout the district have been reading these books, hearing the stories, creating artwork based on the books, and they are all so excited to have the authors come to their school in April,” said Wattai.

The Authors in April benefit dinner, which is open to high school students and adults, will be held April 23 at Royal Park Hotel. The event will begin at 6 p.m. with a book sale and signing, and a cash bar. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m., followed by a raffle drawing for original art at 8 p.m. and authors’ remarks at 8:15 p.m. Seating is limited, and reservations for the dinner must be made before April 13. Donation levels range from $45 to $75. For more information about the benefit dinner, call (248) 709-6984 or email ckruse@rochester.k12.mi.us.

To learn more about Authors In April, visit www.authorsinapril.org.