America Writes for Kids

My thanks to Bobbi Katz for being my guest yesterday. If you haven’t had time to read her remarks yet, don’t forget!

I’ve mentioned America Writes for Kids before but have never presented the full story about the site, irs origins, and its applications. I asked my cofounder, Sandy Asher, if she would like to provide an article about our sites (there are three). Sandy is the guiding light and energy that drive this effort. Sandy asked Ben Asher if he would do the honors. Ben, who is Sandy’s multi-talented son, created the original site for us and today serves as our webmaster. Here’s the story, told by Ben Asher.

by Ben Asher

In 1998, Missouri authors Sandy Asher and David Harrison founded MISSOURI WRITES FOR KIDS, a website devoted to writers of children’s and young-adult books from their home state. The page is hosted by Drury University, where Asher (now based in Pennsylvania) was writer-in-residence, and Harrison (an alumnus) is currently their poet laureate. The website is designed to be child-friendly. It includes a list of Missouri children’s writers and links to more than two dozen author sites. For a small fee, authors without web hosting can order a standard page hosted on the Drury server. Each month, the “Show Me a Good Book” section features a book by a Missouri children’s writer. The site also links to writing-oriented resources, including two annual children’s literature festivals, and professional organizations ranging from the National Association for Teachers of English to the Missouri Association of School Librarians.

The success of MISSOURI WRITES FOR KIDS inspired Asher and Harrison to create a national page, AMERICA WRITES FOR KIDS. Like the Missouri site, it showcases a book of the month and includes links to literary resources. These include two organizations dedicated to Spanish-language children’s literature, the Barahona Center and the Isabela Schon International Center, and informational sites for aspiring children’s authors. Writers can either submit links for their own websites or order a standard page. The site allows viewers to search for authors alphabetically or by state, using a clickable map. Recently, a blog has been added, with contributions from a teacher and a literary agent along with authors. The website currently links to more than four hundred writers from almost every state in the union.

In addition to books, Asher writes plays, which motivated her to introduce the USA PLAYS FOR KIDS page. This site has a similar format to AMERICA WRITES FOR KIDS. It spotlights a play of the month, and includes links not only to professional organizations such as the Dramatists Guild of America, but to resources for playwrights under the age of eighteen. As on the other sites, playwrights can submit website links or order a basic page. These links, currently totaling about fifty, are searchable alphabetically and by state.

AMERICA WRITES FOR KIDS and its companion pages have been recommended as reference sites by many schools and libraries, including Tufts University. By design, all three pages are useful resources not only for writers promoting their work, but for anyone interested in good books or plays for children or young adults. This includes teachers, play producers and directors, illustrators, librarians, parents, anyone considering a career in children’s literature or theatre, and (of course) children and young adults themselves.