HERO-KMW-COVER-032316-KidsReadingBooks-KCAG

Sharing The Fun Of Reading

Kauai Children's Authors Guild promotes literacy and an appreciation for books

Kauai Children’s Authors Guild promotes literacy and an appreciation for books

Stories make the world go around. “Stories help young people to understand their world,” says Mark Jeffers. “If they can reach for a book when they have a problem or have something they really need to understand, then they will have a tool that lasts their entire lives. Books help to heal, solve problems and bring about your own personal dreams.”

As Storybook Theatre of Hawaii executive director, Jeffers is among a group of local authors inspiring keiki to read more books. Kauai Children’s Authors Guild (KCAG) members work together not only to support each other, but also to promote literacy and creativity in young children. For the past month they’ve been reading books in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school classrooms, and encouraging keiki to write their own stories. Their mission is part of the annual “Read Across Kauai Day,” in which some children are awarded their own books to take home.

“Kids oftentimes don’t even have the experience of holding a book in their hands,” says Susan Dierker, who has written several children’s stories.

She notes that with the Internet and electronics, children are less inclined to reach for books.

“I believe that books should be held in the hand and maybe become a family heirloom that’s passed down through generations,” posits Dierker.

The group’s founding member, Monika Mira, realized the necessity of children’s books after giving birth to her son Brayden (8).

“Reading aloud to children is not just so much an educational process,” she says, “it’s about bonding with your children.”

Carol Peacock-Williams with a class of elementary school students she recently visited for Read Across Kauai Day

Carol Peacock-Williams with a class of elementary school students she recently visited for Read Across Kauai Day

In 1999, she started crafting her first book, The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book, which was published 10 years later. It originally was penned for adults and older kids (long before the new coloring fad hit), and has since been used by people of all ages. But after Brayden was born, she decided to aim her writing for children. She has self-published several books since, including Hawaii’s Green Sea Turtles and Who Lives in the Sea? She also continues to create coloring books for people of all ages, including Day of the Dead and Christmas Ornament.

While writing was a fulfilling mission for her, Mira found that she often missed out on personal interactions.

“When you’re an author, you are behind a computer in your house by yourself for so many months,” she says.

To remedy that situation, she started connecting with other local authors.

“I found out that every single time I connected with another author, something good happened,” she says.

Together they formed KCAG and became “stronger as a group.” They regularly network, and sponsor various events and workshops. Still, one of the best parts for the group’s core members — Mira, Jeffers, Dierker and Carol Peacock-Williams — is being able to read their books aloud to keiki each year for Read Across Kauai Day.

“They get to meet a real, live author, and that’s really special,” says Jeffers, who wrote a book titled, The Eye of the Lion, Story of My First Hurricane, about children’s experiences during Hurricane Iniki.

Susan Dierker visits a classroom for Read Across Kauai Day in 2014

Susan Dierker visits a classroom for Read Across Kauai Day in 2014

What makes the story time even more exciting for the kids is when they get to bring home a keepsake.

“So many times I’ve had the experience where kids can’t even believe they’re getting to take a book home,” says Dierker, who penned two children’s stories about her dog, Knuckles, the Hound of Hanalei and Albatross of Kauai, the Story of Kaloakulua.

During the inaugural “Read Across Kauai Day” in 2014, the group distributed 450 books to keiki, and last year it donated 1,000. This year, KCAG hopes that number will be even higher.

“If the child does get to take home the book that’s by the author, they’re really excited about it,” says Mira.

Local authors with their self-published books, from left: Carol Peacock-Williams, Susan Dierker, Mark Jeffers and Monika Mira

Local authors with their self-published books, from left: Carol Peacock-Williams, Susan Dierker, Mark Jeffers and Monika Mira

Gifting books is just one aspect that core members find rewarding about Read Across Kauai Day, which has grown to much longer than just one day, as it kicked off in February and continues through this month. Since the authors all are self-published, they can chat with keiki about what it takes to become a writer and the process in crafting a book. Peacock-Williams (whose pen name is Carol Peacock) knows that the degree of work that’s necessary to publish a book can vary. Her first children’s book, Benny the Beetle, took many years to finalize, whereas My Kauai took only one day to write. Despite the challenges, she enjoys the creative process and inspiring children to one day tackle their own projects. But, above all, she believes in spreading the message that reading is of fundamental importance not only for children, but for people of any age or gender.

“It’s cool to read,” she says. Visit kauaichildrensauthors.blogspot.com for more information.

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