Rochester celebrates literacy with Authors in April

Program receives 2019 Library of Congress State Literacy Award

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published April 10, 2019

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ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — Four authors will come to the Rochester area this month as part of a 35-year-old program aimed at creating lifelong learners.

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, private school parents and educators, and the Rochester Hills Public Library to bring highly regarded children’s authors to the community’s elementary and middle school students.

“Our goal is really to get kids excited about reading and create lifelong readers,” said Lisa Wattai, a member of the Authors in April executive board.

The public is invited to kick off this year’s program by participating in a free community scavenger hunt 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. April 13 in downtown Rochester. 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 various Authors in April books and authors that they can record on their handouts, and kids will be given “trinkets” along the way.

This year’s authors will come to town April 29-May 3 to visit schools, give presentations to students and sign books.

Organizers say students have been busy preparing for the visits all year.

“The kids, throughout the entire year,  explore the authors’ works through literature, illustrations and artwork. They spend time during library listening to books. They spend time in their classroom and the art room exploring the books. We have book clubs going on at several of the schools, and it all culminates when the authors come to visit. It’s such an impactful program, and it has been for several years,” said Wattai.

Library Youth Services Manager Becky Raczkowski sits on the Authors in April board — which selects the authors to participate in the program each year — and provides the library’s input as to which authors will best captivate students each year.

Once authors are selected by the board, Raczkoswki said, the library purchases multiple copies of each of the titles for the community to check out and enjoy at their leisure.

“It’s usually eight to 10 copies of each title,” she said. “We don’t have anything on the shelves right now. I’m amazed they are all checked out.”

This year, author Josh Funk will visit kindergarten and first-grade students, Erin Soderberg will meet with second- and third-grade students, Kirby Larson will visit fourth- and fifth-grade students, and Alan Gratz will meet with middle school students in Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township.

“The fact that the kids actually get to meet the real-life authors ... sparks a little something different in kids. ... They know they are going to get to meet the person who created a book. … Our program is special in that regard,” Wattai said.

To help subsidize program costs, the authors will attend a benefit dinner April 29 at the Palazzo Grande in Shelby Township. Adult attendees will be able to meet the authors, have books autographed, enjoy dinner and listen to a presentation by the authors. For ticket information, visit www.authorsinapril.org.

The public is also invited to a free book signing event 4-6 p.m. May 1 in the multipurpose room of the Rochester Hills Public Library. Books will be available for purchase in the library’s lobby, and registration is not needed.

Library Director Christine Lind Hage said the library is proud to be involved with Authors in April.

“The library is really trying to foster a love of reading, so we do a lot of activities encouraging children to read. Meeting an author or an illustrator that’s appropriate to their grade level is really exciting to students and makes them want to read that author’s books, and maybe even encourages them to become authors. It’s all supporting literacy and reading in young readers,” she said.

Authors in April was recently notified that it will receive a 2019 State Literacy Award from the Library of Congress. The award, according to officials, recognizes the organization’s outstanding contributions to the promotion of literacy and reading in the community and comes with a grant of up to $2,225 to further the group’s efforts to expand literacy in Michigan.

Authors in April was nominated for the award by the Rochester Hills Public Library.

“As a nonprofit organization, they’ve committed countless volunteer hours to the children in this community, and they deserve to be recognized for doing their part to encourage and promote a love of reading. … It’s my hope that this award allows them to continue to grow and evolve over time to serve our ever-changing community’s needs,” Raczkowski said in an email.  

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

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