As the author of several children’s books about wildlife, I strive to educate and inspire young (and not-so-young) readers to protect natural habitats, and the great and small creatures who call those habitats home. That’s why I created Authors for Earth Day—A4ED .
It took a lot of work. But with the generosity of our members and participants, A4ED is now an international coalition of over 120 award-winning children’s authors and illustrators. Through our special school visits, students are empowered to research organizations and direct their author’s speaking fee to fund conservation. Our amazing team has already mentored young readers in the United States, Australia, Canada and Israel. And contributed nearly $52,000 to environmental causes!
Like all grassroots efforts, Authors for Earth Day began simply:
In spring 2008, I decided to donate my April 22nd (Earth Day) school visit fee to a conservation organization. I got to thinking, what if the students voted to determine the donation recipient? I was excited to demonstrate the power of voice in such a straight-forward manner—excited for each child to see how they could impact the environment as a voter. And maybe as a writer too. [wink]
I coordinated with my school contact, Reading Specialist Patt Walker. After sending a list of five conservation organizations, classrooms researched my “nominees.” They discussed the democratic process and the importance of Nature. Then, during my author-illustrator visit, we held a paperless vote.
The event was so much fun! The teachers and kids really got into it—they made tons of posters and even wore Earth Day pins and t-shirts. Based on student ballots, the winning organization was The Humane Society of the United States. I wrote a check in honor of Encanto School in Phoenix, Arizona, and was touched when Patt wrote, “Thanks, Brooke, for making this possible with your generous gift.”
My 2009 Earth Day school visit was hosted by Kyrene de los Cerritos Elementary, where the kids and I celebrated making the world a wee bit better. By then, I had talked with some author friends and launched the A4ED website. But there remained an abundance of work ahead to make my dream a reality.
I spent the remainder of the year emailing authors, expanding our website and building support materials. I spoke with dozens of renowned authors and illustrators and everyone showed definite interested, but with the economy crumbling, it was a challenging time for charity. I became convinced that the whole idea was kaput, finished, a complete waste of time and energy.
My lack of faith proved short-sighted.
In January 2010, authors started confirming events. First Bruce Hale, then Debbie Dadey. Nancy Castaldo and Barbara Gowan. Our small but mighty inaugural team was on the way to success! That spring, I spent the day at Rhodes Junior High in Arizona, while my teammates held similar school visits from California to New York. Together we contributed over $5500 to conservation.
Now our school visit program now runs year-round. Thanks to my friend and ally Dan Gutman, our coalition has supported more than 45 popular kidlit participants. Through 94 events in 4 countries (22 U.S. states), we’ve contributed nearly $52,000 to over 60 organizations worldwide. Dedicated members, Yolanda Ridge and Nancy Castaldo, post an Eco-Book of the Month list on Facebook. And this blog offers yet another avenue for readers to connect with their favorite authors in a meaningful way.
We’ve come a long way.
So, was it worth all the work to create Authors for Earth Day? When I get letters from students like Zach, who wrote, “You showed us that every day should be Earth Day. And you showed us all ways to protect the planet,” it’s worth every minute.
Brooke Bessesen is a research naturalist and the award-winning author of several books. She is also the founder and director of Authors for Earth Day. Take a trip around her world of words and wildlife at www.brookebessesen.com.