The Books are Only the Beginning by Jess Keating

I’ve always been inspired by Nerdy Book Club generosity. Years ago, I came across the Nerdy Book Club website. A new post everyday! A club of self-declared nerds: my bookish soulmates interested in spreading book love and helping kids find the books that will make them lifelong readers. It was a new place to call home. It also happens to be home to some of my favorite people.

Recently, I was lucky enough to attend the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. I usually consider it one of the highlights of my year—it’s a chance to be around like-minded authors and book creators, teach some fun workshops, and there’s something very special about the atmosphere there. Top it off with my yearly trip to Nerdcamp, it’s all a book nerd could ask for!

This year, I was so happy to see Colby Sharp on the roster. In a conference full of eager writers, Colby’s session gave everyone a look at the bigger picture. How do books get used in the real world—with young readers—every day? How does he use what authors create as a way to engage those kids?

His session was incredible. He outlined how he and his class celebrate reading every day, including a must-see video of him pulling an O Captain, My Captain moment on a desk! He also spoke about the ways authors can help him build the love of reading in the classroom.

As an author, it’s very easy to forget this part. We push to keep writing, to learn our craft and send off our words to agents and editors in hopes that one day we’ll be lucky enough to see them on a shelf somewhere. But Colby’s session reminded us of one very important fact: the books are just the beginning. It’s all about the readers.

As I sat in the back of the room beside my agent, we both leaned together to whisper, “I wish I had Colby as a third grade teacher.” It’s true. Not every kid is lucky enough to have a Mr. Sharp, or one of the amazing nerdy teachers as their guides in the classroom. But his message of authors helping teachers through our art holds true no matter who or where you are. How can do we do this? We can engage in twitter chats! We can interact with classrooms online! We can make videos!

I love that moment when you can literally feel an idea hit you. A thunk happens in your brain, and the light comes on. “Kids really love when they can watch an author in a video, and it inspires them to read and write more themselves,” he said.

That’s when it hit me.

Some of you may already know that I’m a huge fan of videos. I have a science webseries for kids, but the minute I heard Colby’s words, I knew I had to branch out. As an author, I could talk books and writing ‘til the cows come home. What I wanted to do was give teachers something they could use in their classrooms to give kids the inspiration (and sometimes the guts!) to start writing. To remind them of what writing really is: a fun, wonderful way of expressing themselves.

So I got to work. I sent out a call for the most pressing writing questions that nerdy teachers hear (and got an incredible response!)

Today, I’m happy to reveal a growing series of videos called “Write with Jess Keating”. I meet a lot of young readers who are intimidated about writing. I’d like to change that. What better way to spread book love than to give readers the tools to tell their own stories, right?

The first batch of ten videos is quick, informal, and classroom-friendly, answering some of the most common questions kids have about writing. To help inspire them, I’ve also included a call to action in each—simple things they can do to grow their writer muscles. I am so thankful for the Nerdy Book Club community, and I hope these videos help educators continue to spread the book and reading love!

Because truly, the books are only the beginning.

Keep it nerdy,

—Jess Keating

About Jess Keating

As a zoologist turned middle grade and picture book author, Jess Keating has been sprayed by skunks, bitten by crocodiles, and been a victim to the dreaded paper cut. Her debut novel, How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied was followed by two sequels, earning a Kirkus star, a Red Maple nomination, a Rocky Mountain Book Award nomination, and a spot on the LA Times Summer Book Pick List. 

Her nonfiction picture book series kicks off with PINK IS FOR BLOBFISH, with a sequel to follow in 2017. 

Her first picture book biography, SHARK LADY, will also be published in 2017. 

She has a Masters degree in Animal Science and a growing collection of books that are threatening to take over her house. She lives in Ontario, Canada, where she loves hiking, nerdy documentaries, and writing books for adventurous and funny kids.

Jess is also the creator and writer of Animals for Smart People, a Youtube series about animals, science, and nature. You can find her on Twitter @Jess_Keating and on Facebook @JessKeatingBooks! Visit her website for more info!