Last Tuesday, I took Neal to the Columbus Public Library to see and meet John Green,the award-winning YA author who also does a great Happy Dance. I wish that I'd have had the time to really thank him for writing intelligent fiction for teens and others who love good writing. He obviously does not Forget to Be Awesome.
This was the second time that we'd been to see John. The first was hosted by the good folks at Cover to Cover Books in Columbus. Neal put on his UniYeti T shirt and we drove the 45 minutes and had a marvelous time. It also had a major impact on how Neal saw himself. Before the event, he had no interest in writing whatsoever. Getting a sentence out of him was exhausting, despite the fact that he has inherited his Dad's gift of conversation. After seeing that John Green is, in fact, a real, human person, Neal felt that perhaps he should give writing a try. He wrote several partial and finished short stories in the next few months. He now has a few blogs, and even a Twitter account for our kitten. His writing is getting almost as creative as his speech.
A similar thing happened when I took Neal to see Jeff Smith, graphic novelist extraordinare and creator of the Bone series. Neal's drawing experiments took over the dining room for a while. As an added bonus, Alanna was able to meet Margaret Peterson Haddix, which sparked her interest in reading books beyond the beginning chapter book series that she was a bit stuck on.
So watch your local bookstores and libraries for author appearances. They can be very valuable by providing a link between your child, the reader and the authors of the books she devours.
Also check out the online communities that some of the authors have going. Most have websites, and some innovators like the aforementioned John Green have major communities.
Side note to those who think that Neal is a bit young for Mr. Green's books: if a kid wants to read something that may be above his or her maturity level, I'd vote to let said kid go ahead, as long as it's not pornographic or super-violent. In my experience as a kid reader who read psychology texts and grown-up novels at rather young ages, and as a parent raising voracious readers, if it's really out of their range, they won't read far because it won't make sense and will be boring. If it is in their range, then it will make an excellent vehicle for discussion. It's nice to discuss important things like sexual values and ethics BEFORE the hormone rages have quite kicked in, and books are a good way to get the discussions going.
Besides, then I can rationalize extra reading time by saying that I have to read it in order to keep up with Neal!!