Read Across America Invitations

Google - Read Across America Logo‘Tis the season for emails requesting our presence as Read Across America readers in elementary schools throughout the country.  Often, the greeting on the email is “Hi.”  This usually means that the host is casting the same message to countless authors & illustrators, hoping to reel in one or two live ones.  Occasionally, the greeting will be personalized as in, “Dear [insert name of author here]” with a generic message following it.  And in the very best emails, they might even mention the title of one or more of your books.

Usually, the schools want you to be part of their celebration which translates to, “Would you be interested in being one of the readers for the event? You can read in as many classrooms as you feel comfortable.”

Really? Go all that way just to read a book aloud?  And be one of many, many readers on a day filled with adults and kids in Cat in the Hat chapeaux and principals shaving their heads because kids have read a trillion pages?

And we won’t even mention that you are being asked to donate your time.

Frankly, I love that this celebration exists.  It gives a national platform to a very important topic.  And I’m very gracious when I turn down these requests.  But, my own talents as a writer, encourager, and teacher are better off being used at a quieter time when I can do my magic not as someone who can rock a read-aloud, but as someone who can offer kids specific advice on how to improve their writing, revel in their revisions, and read, read, read.  And read not just to count pages accomplished – but to read to lead a better, fuller life.

Do you have any Read Across America Stories you’d like to share?  Tell us here!

8 Comments on “Read Across America Invitations”

  • Hear! Hear! Alexis!! I agree with everything you have said. My experiences with these events borders on chaotic and I graciously decline as well.

  • Seven or more years ago, I was actually paid to participate in a Read Across America event. While there, I also met a storyteller who was paid as well. At the time, she told me, “I don’t leave my house for less than $500.” From her, I learned the importance of setting a minimum fee.

  • I’ve been paid, too, Carole. But usually it’s at schools that invite one author or illustrator for the day, not at schools that are scheduling many readers. The storyteller had good advice — that it’s good to have a minimum in mind when doing any event.

    On a related note, a friend just told me of a terrific program at her school. For many years, the school invited “local celebrities” to read. But in a small town, you can run out of “clebrities” fast! So, this year, they’re inviting older kids to read favorite books to younger kids. To me, that’s perfect way to celebrate Read Across America — sharing the joy, kid to kid!

  • I did a local one a few years ago. Although I was not paid, I did get to meet other “local celebs.” One of the things that came from networking was being a guest on a local TV show. It was a great spot which lead to other invites etc… So I’m glad I did it.

  • Good point, Jerry! If other authors are part of the program, there’s the potential to see them in action (if you’re not all presenting at the same time) and expand your contacts. And if the event is local, it’s not such a big bite out of your time or gas mileage! So nice to hear this turned out well for you.

  • For the first year I did some freebies, but no more. 500 is the magic amount that gets me out the door or take them serious. If schools can’t afford that I ask them to pre sell 100 books give or take, and that always works and you are more noteworthy than going for free. They work harder and appreciate you much more. When I charge they even have a parking space with my name on it, (reserved for Rhonda Fischer)and order in lunch. They treat you like a celebrity and it is so much more noteworthy. Time is money and do every angle to get what you deserve.

  • What I find incredulous is that I am not only asked to visit/present/read for free, but that I am EXPECTED to do so. I’ve had schools, museums, and author events that are shocked when I say, “Yes, I’d love to visit. A flyer with more info and my fees is attached.” At first I wondered if I should be giving away my time in order to make my name a bit better known, but I was advised by two of the best in the business (Lee Bennett Hopkins and J. Patrick Lewis—hope they don’t mind the shout-out—they’re marvelous mentors!) that our time is valuable, that writers are professional, and that our work will not be taken seriously by others if we agree to free. (But, Rhonda, I don’t have my own parking space yet! Too cool! :) All that being said, I have spoken at charity events for free if it’s a good cause, especially if I’m able to sell books.

  • Man, I wish I had known all this a year ago! I’ve only been paid for one appearance I’ve done so far, and that’s only because it was at someone’s house. I figured since I’m just starting out, the exposure and opportunity to sell books is more important. I’m still in the amazed-that-I’ve-been-published stage, I guess, so I’m delighted when I’m invited to participate in anything where they seem to think of me as an established author. But I’ll keep setting a minimum fee in mind for the future! Thanks for the advice.