Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Author Interview: Karma Wilson

Karma Wilson is the bestselling author of more than 30 children’s books, including Bear Snores On, Bear Feels Scared, Animal Strike at the Zoo, and The Cow Loves Cookies. Her books are recognizable for their gentle humor, rhythmic prose, and childlike animal characters. Karma reaches out to young readers through her website (a great resource for families and educators) and school visits. She graciously agreed to an interview for How to Raise a Reader.

HTRAR: When did you know you wanted to be a children’s book author?

KW: I was running a daycare and I realized how much a good book could enrich a day for both me and the kids. I had always fought the thought of being a writer because my mother is one and I was sure we had nothing in common! Turns out I'm a lot like her, but shhh...don't tell her I said so. I finally stopped fighting my nature and used a tax return to purchase our first computer. I figured I'd have the computer paid for in a few months with all my writing revenue. (Turns out I didn't pay for the computer for three years....writing was harder than I thought!)

HTRAR: You use rhyming verse in your books. What are the benefits of telling a children’s story in rhyme?

KW: So many! I'm a huge advocate of rhyme. Think about it...what types of writing do you remember forever? Nursery rhymes, songs, picture books in rhyme (I am Sam, Sam I am!), etc. Rhyme aids memory and that's very powerful. Whenever a child memorizes a rhyme every word of that rhyme is locked in their mind, in context. What a fantastic literacy aid! Also, when a child hears a story in rhyme they can often anticipate the next end rhyme. This makes children feel very smart, and gives them a sense of the personal satisfaction reading can bring. Oh, I could go on forever! Can you tell I am passionate about this subject?

HTRAR: With all the picture books out there, how can parents find the best picture books for their children?

KW: It's dead easy today. There are internet guides, reader reviews on online vendors, children's literature blogs, etc., which all really help readers make informed buying decisions. I'm also a big fan of "hands on." There's nothing like a trip to the book store to ogle books and actually hold them in your hand—flip through them and sniff them even. Sometimes the weight of a picture book, the feel of the words on your tongue, don't come alive until you actually hold the book. I'm sure of one thing: passionate readers will find good books and good books are sure to find passionate readers.

HTRAR: You read out loud to kids during author visits and even narrated the Scholastic/Weston Woods video adaptations of Bear Snores On and Bear Wants More.How do you keep kids engaged during read-aloud time?

KW: Build up is key. Let them know right away you are on their side. I accomplish this by encouraging them to scream and stomp during my introduction to the story. (Teachers and librarians love me....) I also encourage kids to help me with a story. I give them a part (for instance I have kids snore during Bear Snores On). I give them instructions and cues before starting the story. Pausing before repeating lines so kids can "read along" is also key. Good picture books tend to give visual cues that aid story telling. Words that are to be read louder are bigger, dramatic pauses are left on a page turn, etc. I also can't emphasize enough how important a practice-read is. Getting familiar with a story will help story times go much more smoothly. Memorization is actually best if possible. (See why I write in rhyme?)

HTRAR: What’s your advice for raising kids who love to read?

KW: All the standard advice applies. Read to your babies and toddlers, provide access to good books, be a reading example yourself. BUT I add this: Don't judge your child's reading habits. If your son likes to read motorcycle magazines, who cares? If your daughter is more into gossip rags and less into Pride and Prejudice, so be it. Your job is to make your child literate. Your job is NOT to make your child enjoy the literature you personally like. Some people are not pleasure readers. But just because somebody doesn't read for entertainment doesn't mean that person isn't a great reader who reads whenever they need to.

Thanks, Karma! Look for Karma's new book, Bear's Loose Tooth, arriving in bookstores this August.

Links to some of Karma's books:

1 comment:

  1. Seriously, Karma Wilson - we LOVE her books!