Ten Years of Authors for Earth Day! by Nancy Castaldo
Since 2010 Authors for Earth Day has been “supporting literacy through conservation” in schools throughout the United States, and Canada, Australia, and Israel. It was founded by Brooke Bessesen with the mission to “inspire young readers to use their power of VOICE, both as voters and as writers, and to help them shape their future by promoting environmental awareness and raising money for conservation.” The program has had 73 author participants who have conducted 173 school visits, donating funding to 102 conservation organizations.
In 2008, author-illustrator Brooke Bessesen was looking for a meaningful way to observe Earth Day with young readers. She decided to donate her school visit fee to a conservation organization. Then she got thinking…what if the students voted to determine the donation recipient? She was excited to empower kids to use their ‘voice’ to help care for our blue planet.
After that incredibly successful and rewarding event, Brooke couldn’t help imagining the potential of several authors doing similar visits across the country. An annual multi-author event could make a dynamic impact. So she started building the Authors for Earth Day (A4ED) infrastructure, creating the materials, and trying to rally other authors to participate.
At the 2009 SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, Brooke wore a badge that read, “Ask me about Authors for Earth Day.” Nobody did. That is until Linda Sue Park inquired in the hotel elevator. After hearing the concept, Linda told Brooke about “Recycle This Book:100 Top Children’s Authors Tell You How to Go Green” and referred her to the author Dan Gutman, who opened doors to several of the renowned authors that have since joined the A4ED ranks.
Over the last ten years, the organization and the money donated to organizations has grown. There have also been monthly online eco book reviews to advance eco-literacy. The news spread across social media on a website, Facebook page, and a blog. The volunteer organization grew to have a staff of 7 — Brooke Bessesen (Executive Director and Managing Editor, A4ED Blog), Dan Gutman (Recruitment Director), Debbie Dadey (Social Media Director), Yolanda Ridge and Nancy Castaldo (Eco-Book of the Month Co-Directors), Barbara Gowan (Associate Editor, A4ED Blog), and Jennifer Ward (School-Events Team Coordinator).
After empowering over 80,000 students and donating $108,000 to 102 conservation organizations, A4ED will now conclude with the 50th-anniversary celebration of Earth Day.
Bruce Hale said after his 2010 A4ED event: “…when we tallied up the votes and announced which group would be receiving the donation… deafening cheers went up. That’s why I did this event—to get the kids engaged in protecting the planet.”
Even though the formal A4ED events are concluding, conservation and eco-literacy efforts continue. Kidlit authors are encouraged to follow the A4ED model to donate school visit funding to conservation organizations. Engaging students in learning about conservation programs and choosing where to send their funds empowers kids to make a difference.
Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years. Her 2016 title THE STORY OF SEEDS: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World introduces older readers to the importance of seeds, farming, and the crisis we currently face. It received the Green Earth Book Award and many other accolades.
Her latest is THE FARM THAT FEEDS US comes out in May 2020. Other books include SCBWI Crystal Kite recipients BEASTLY BRAINS: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel and SNIFFER DOGS: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World.
Her research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia and she loves sharing her adventures with her readers. She has conducted programs at the Boston Children’s Museum, Atlanta Zoo, Tennessee Aquarium, among others and has spoken at the Science Teachers Association of New York State, NCTE, Texas Library Association, and New England Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.