Read, Wonder, and Learn! Favorite Authors & Illustrators Share Resources for Learning Anywhere – Spring 2020

Hello, friends! I’m Kate Messner, a former classroom teacher, forever-educator, and the author of more than three dozen books for kids. These include picture books like Over and Under the Snow, The Brilliant Deep, and The Next President; the Fergus and Zeke easy reader series; the Ranger in Time historical chapter book adventures; nonfiction like Tracking Pythons and Solve This: Forensics; and novels like All the Answers, Breakout, and Chirp. I’m happy that you found your way here!

This is a library of resources for kids, families, teachers, and librarians to make sure that reading & learning can happen anywhere this spring. Some of you may be out of school as communities try to prevent the spread of a virus known as COVID-19. Here’s a great page from NPR that explains what that’s all about, in a kid-friendly comic. National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reynolds shares “How to Fight the New Bad Guy in Town,” a PSA for kids, on the StorySeeds podcast here. And this excellent & important post from author Laurie Halse Anderson does a great job explaining why we’re seeing closings (and why that’s important) for older readers.

Below, you’ll find a growing collection of resources that include everything from first-chapter and picture book read-alouds (all shared with permission!) to drawing and writing mini-lessons. Be sure to check back often, as new resources will be added every day. If you’d prefer to browse learning-at-home resources by age group, my daughter Ella has put together the pages below, with even more resources, organized by grade level. (Thanks, Ella!)

Resources for grades PreK-2 (ages 3-7) 
Resources for grades 3-5 (ages 8-10) 
Resources for grades 6-8 (ages 11-13) 
Resources for grades 9-12 (ages 14+)

Many teachers & librarians have also reached out to ask about permission to read books aloud to your students via closed platforms like Google Classroom, Zoom, and unlisted YouTube links. Individual publishers have been sharing their own guidelines for online read-alouds, and you’ll find a round-up of those here. 

Author Kate Messner shares a read-aloud of THE NEXT PRESIDENT: THE UNEXPECTED BEGINNINGS AND UNWRITTEN FUTURE OF AMERICA’S PRESIDENTS, illustrated by Adam Rex. Writing challenge: After the read-aloud, write your own presidential platform. What changes would you make to your country if you were in charge?

Author Kate Messner shares a read-aloud of OVER AND UNDER THE POND, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (shared with permission from Chronicle Books). After the read-aloud, look out your window – or step outside if you can – and see what hidden nature you notice!

Author Kate Messner shares a read-aloud of THE BRILLIANT DEEP: REBUILDING THE WORLD’S CORAL REEFS illustrated by Matt Forsythe. After the read-aloud, check out the Coral Restoration Foundation website. Learn more about the threats coral reefs are facing from NASA’s Climate Kids page, and check out this page about how kids can help our oceans. Challenge: Make a poster or drawing to teach people about how we can all help coral and other sea creatures!

OVER AND UNDER THE RAINFOREST, Kate’s book with illustrator Christopher Silas Neal doesn’t come out until August, but we got special permission to share an early read-aloud! After the story, check out this page with more information on the wildlife of Costa Rica, where Kate did most of the research for this book. Writing challenge: Write a short article to teach people about your favorite rainforest animal!

Tracey Baptiste, the author of The Jumbies series, shares a mini-lesson on comparative mythology. She talks through how creatures from different mythologies have traits in common and encourages kids to find those similarities in the mythologies they come across. She’s also sharing some reading resources such as D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, The Element Encyclopedia of Mythical Creatures, and her own Jumbies Field Guide available at her website.

Author Debbi Michiko Florence shares a read-aloud excerpt of her chapter book JASMINE TOGUCHI FLAMINGO KEEPER, along with a writing prompt (and a peek at a real daruma doll)!

Author Megan Frazer Blakemore guides students through a maker activity with a class pet theme!

Author Leah Henderson shares a first chapter read-aloud of her middle grade novel THE MAGIC IN CHANGING YOUR STARS. Writing Challenge: Find out who Ailey Benjamin Lane is named after. (Hint: His first name comes from an African-American dancer & choreographer with the initials A.A. His middle name comes from an African-American farmer & naturalist who searches out the stars and who created an almanac in 1792. This person’s initials are B.B.) Who could they be?

Author-illustrator Jarrett Lerner shares tips and techniques to help you draw ANYTHING and EVERYTHING!

In Part One of a series, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich reads from SOMEDAY IS NOW and asks “What are the issues that you care about? How can you use your power for justice?” After the read-aloud, check out this article about the book, plus these pages about the Katz drugstore sit-ins and Counter Histories.

Veera Hiranandani, author of the Newbery Honor winning book The Night Diary, The Whole Story of Half a Girl, and The Phoebe G. Green series offers a diary writing prompt to help you get to know your characters and create an inspired story!

Author Jason Reynolds shares a read-aloud from his MG novel, GHOST. In this chapter, the main character talks about world records, so after the read-aloud, check out this page from the Guiness Book of World Records, with some records you can try to break at home! 

Author Kate Messner shares a read-aloud excerpt from TRACKING PYTHONS: THE QUEST TO CATCH AN INVASIVE PREDATOR AND SAVE AN ECOSYSTEM. After the read-aloud, you can learn more about invasive species from National Geographic and the National Wildlife Foundation. Also check out this article from New York State Conservationist Kids! 

Kate also shared this article about the python scientists, with photos and infographics.

Author & illustrator Grace Lin teaches viewers how to draw a Chinese Dragon and shares some tidbits about Chinese culture! You can find more of Grace’s reading & drawing videos on her YouTube channel. 

Author Carole Lindstrom shares a read-aloud of WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS.

Author Jo Knowles reads from the first chapter of her MG novel WHERE THE HEART IS and offers students a fun writing exercise!  For more about Jo and her books, or for teachers/book group guides that go along with her books, visit her website.

Kelley McMorris, who illustrates the RANGER IN TIME chapter book series, shares a video about how she illustrates a book cover. After you watch, try using Kelley’s process to design a new cover for one of your favorite books!

Author and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi shares a read-aloud of her picture book WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?, gives a drawing demo and challenges young readers to create their own imaginative squirrels, and shares a crowd-sourced “Where Are My Books?” music video. You can find lots of free, print-ready activities and other fun bonus info at

Author Erin Entrada Kelly gives a peek into the notebooks for several of her novels, including HELLO, UNIVERSE. Writing challenge: What’s in your notebook? Take a little time to write in it today, inspired by Erin’s ideas!

Author Chris Tebbetts shares a read-aloud of the first chapters of STRANDED. Writing challenge: Choose a wilderness setting of your own – the Arctic, the desert, the rainforest – and imagine you’re stranded there. How will you survive? Write an imaginary journal documenting your adventure. Check out these wilderness survival skills from Outdoor Life for ideas! 

Author Nikki Grimes shares poetry selections from WORDS WITH WINGS. Writing challenge: Try writing your own poem today, in the style of one of Nikki’s read-alouds! For more of Nikki’s read-aloud videos and lessons, check out her YouTube Channel here.

Author Ann Braden shares a read-aloud excerpt from THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS. Note: the octopus is a pretty amazing creature, so after the read-aloud, read up on them at this page from National Geographic Kids!

Author Kate Messner shares a read-aloud of UP IN THE GARDEN AND DOWN IN THE DIRT, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. After the read-aloud, read more about helpful insects here and check out these garden activities from KidsGarden! 

Author Sarah Albee shares a STEM mystery, “Did the Doctor Do It?” as part of her series exploring the science and intrigue of poison throughout history. Check out more of Sarah’s Poison videos here. 

Middle grade and Young adult author, Paula Chase offers a mini-writing exercise to help students build stories around their unique traits.

Author Nancy Castaldo reads some of BACK FROM THE BRINK with tips how we can all use our voices through our writing to make a difference. Here’s the link to the reader’s guide for more activities.

Author Debbi Michiko Florence shares an early read-aloud excerpt of her upcoming MG novel KEEP IT TOGETHER KEIKO CARTER, along with a writing prompt!

Author & illustrator Grace Lin shares the first story from her early reader, “Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same!” You can find more of Grace’s reading & drawing videos on her YouTube channel. 

Author Kate Messner shares a read-aloud excerpt from RANGER IN TIME: RESCUE ON THE OREGON TRAIL. Writing challenge: Choose your favorite event in history and imagine how a search and rescue dog might be able to help out. Then so some research about your historical event, and write your own story about Ranger’s adventures there!

Christina Soontornvat shares how she came up with the idea for her new middle grade fantasy novel, A WISH IN THE DARK. Writing challenge: Use Christina’s model to brainstorm your own list of ideas for stories that might be inspired by a classic tale! And check out more videos from Christina here! 

Author KA Holt reads an excerpt from her forthcoming middle grade novel-in-verse, BEN BEE AND THE TEACHER GRIEFER.

Author Mae Respicio reads a few pages from her upcoming middle grade novel, Any Day With You, and shares a quick, fun writing prompt. Writing challenge: Imagine you’ve been planning a beach day with your best friends. You’re so excited to go but when you get there… everything goes wrong and not the way you expected it to! Describe what happens.

Author Elly Swartz shares tips on how to use the emotion in your life to create authentic characters! Writing challenge: Take a few minutes to journal about a day when you felt an especially strong emotion – joy or fear or excitement! How might you use those emotions in a fictional story?

Author Lisa Yee drinks water, reads the first chapter of Millicent Min, Girl Genius, and fumbles when she comes across a couple of lines in Latin. Writing challenge: Try rewriting a scene from this chapter from the point of view of another character!

Award-Winning author Michelle Cusolito shares a writing mini-lesson to help writers add more sensory details to their writing. You can find more resources related to Michelle’s book FLYING DEEP: CLIMB INSIDE DEEP-SEA SUBMERSIBLE ALVIN here.

Author-illustrator Lita Judge shares a video about how a sketching trip inspired one of her picture books! After you watch, take your own mini-sketching trip. Go to your kitchen or your bedroom, your porch or your backyard, and sketch what you see. Observe closely!

Author Kate Messner shares a read-aloud excerpt from CHIRP, a mystery for kids that’s set on a cricket farm! After the read aloud, you can learn more about entomophagy (eating insects as food!) from CBS Kids, and check out a real cricket farm’s website! 

Author Chris Tebbetts shares a video mini-lesson on how to create a good beginning for a story!

And another video writing workshop from Chris, called Four Elements of Character. (This is an 8-minute video where you pause & write sometimes, so the full activity will take about half an hour. Recommended for writers ages 10 and up.)

Author Aisha Saeed shares a read-aloud of her picture book, BILAL COOKS DAAL, along with a related activity!

Author Emily Jenkins shares a read-aloud of A GREYHOUND, A GROUNDHOG.

Author Lisa Schroeder shares a read-aloud excerpt from her MG novel MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS, along with a writing exercise!

Author Janet Fox shares a read-aloud of the first chapter of her MG novel THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS. Writing challenge: Try writing a short scene of your own in which something unexpected happens!

Author & illustrator Jess Keating shares some thoughts on where ideas for stories come from! (This is part of a series Jess shares on writing & you can find more on her YouTube channel.)

Author Chris Tebbetts shares a read-aloud of the first chapters of MIDDLE SCHOOL, THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE, co-written with James Paterson.

Poet Charles Waters shares poetry from DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD (by Charles Waters and Irene Latham)

Author Abby Cooper reads the first chapter of her middle grade novel, FRIEND OR FICTION.

Author Lynn Plourde shares some tips on starting an observation notebook!

Author-illustrator James Burks shares a video lesson on how to draw Squirrel from his graphic novel series, Bird and Squirrel!

Author Kristen Larson shares an engineering design activity based on her book WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane.

Author Liz Garton Scanlon shares a video lesson on writing am ETHEREE — a ten line poem in which each line is one syllable longer than the last.

Author-illustrator Karen Romano Young shares a video doodling tutorial. You can also check out Karen’s #AntarcticLog comics, a weekly series of comics about Antarctica — as well as the Arctic and anyplace where climate change is being studied.

Author KA Holt reads an excerpt from her novel-in-verse, HOUSE ARREST. Mini-lesson: listen for as many poetic devices as you can find (metaphor, simile, assonance, hyperbole, etc.)

Author Jennifer Roy shares a video read-aloud from her historical novel YELLOW STAR, along with a writing prompt about looking for symbols of hope in tough times, recommended for ages 10 and up.

Author Laurel Snyder shares some thoughts on fiction and making up stories, along with a read-aloud of CHARLIE AND MOUSE OUTDOORS.

Author Caroline Starr Rose reads her picture book, A RACE AROUND THE WORLD: THE TRUE STORY OF NELLIE BLY AND ELIZABETH BISLAND. When you’ve finished listening, visit the article, How to Pack Like Pioneering Journalist Nellie Bly, Who Circumnavigated the Globe in 1889 with Just a Small Duffle Bag, to see what Nellie brought on her journey. Challenge: Plan your own trip around the world. What would you like to see? Where would you like to visit? Mark these places on a map.

Author Corinne Demas shares a read-aloud of THE DISAPPEARING ISLAND.

Author Lauren Tarshis shares a read-aloud of the first two chapters of I SURVIVED THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC. After the read-aloud, check out this link to read about Robert Ballard, the oceanographer whose team discovered the wreck of the Titanic more than seventy years after it sank.

Author & poet Nikki Grimes shares poems about one of her favorite cakes, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, along with five steps to creating your very own poem about your favorite food! For more of Nikki’s read-aloud videos and lessons, check out her YouTube Channel here.

Author Sarah Aronson shares a read-aloud of JUST LIKE RUBE GOLDBERG. And here’s a FlipGrip page where kids can share their projects and ask questions.

Author Chelsea Clinton shares an excerpt from her book START NOW: YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Author Bruce Hale shares a read aloud of BIG BAD BABY.

Author Sarah Lynn Scheerger demonstrates how kids can find inspiration and use it in their writing.
Writing Challenge: Write about the same experience in multiple ways (letters, poems, illustrations, and screenplay).
Bonus challenge: Write positive affirmations for your family members.

Author Sayantani DasGupta shares a read-aloud of the first chapter of THE SERPENT’S SECRET.

Author Deborah Underwood reads INTERSTELLAR CINDERELLA (illustrated by Meg Hunt) and gives kids a mini-lesson on how to write their own fractured fairy tales.

Author Kate Messner shares a read-aloud of UP IN THE GARDEN AND DOWN IN THE DIRT and answers questions from kids in a “Family Book Club” video recorded earlier this year (thanks to Read-Aloud Revival for making this recording publicly available for learning at home this spring!)

Author-illustrator Brian Biggs shares a read-aloud of his EVERYTHING GOES board books.

Author Jessica Young shares a read-aloud of HAGGIS AND TANK (illustrated by James Burks) with a mini-lesson on sound words.

Author-illustrator Brandon Reese shares a read-aloud of his picture book CAVE DADA. And here’s a link to download a coloring page, too!

Here’s a fun challenge from author Laurel Snyder… She’s written a brand new book, but doesn’t have any pictures for it. Will you help? She’ll read you the story of The Beastly Collective, and you’ll draw your favorite animals, while she teaches you some brand new words!

Author Christine Evans shares a read-aloud of Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist, illustrated by Yasmin Imamura.

Author and illustrator Grace Lin shares a chapter from her book,The Year of the Dog. You can find more of Grace’s reading & drawing videos on her YouTube channel. 

Grace Lin teaches families how to draw a dog from the number 5 (just like in The Year of the Dog!)

Amy Guglielmo, co-author of POCKET FULL OF COLORS shares a read-aloud of her picture book biography of Disney artist Mary Blair. Art challenge: Collect a rainbow of colorful objects inside or outside as a fun follow up activity. Take part in the “Rainbow Hunt,” and draw a picture of a rainbow to post in your window for neighbors to see on their daily walks.

Author Kerry O’Malley Cerra demonstrates an easy tool students can use to summarize. This tip can also be used for writers as chapter checks!

Author Christina Farley shares the first chapter of her novel THE PRINCESS AND THE PAGE, along with a post full of writing resources here:

Japanese American author, Kathleen Burkinshaw reads a chapter from her MG historical fiction, The Last Cherry Blossom based on events in her mom’s life as a 12 yr old in Hiroshima during WWII. Also learn a little about her mom’s favorite Japanese folk tale. You can find a Discussion Guide on her website

Newbery Award winning author Meg Medina shares a writing lesson on Creating Tension.

Kerry Madden shares a read-aloud of ERNESTINE’S MILKY WAY.

Author Buffy Silverman shares On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring and a little science show-and-tell.

Author Diane Zahler shares a read-aloud of the first chapter of The Marvelwood Magicians and a writing prompt.

Abigail Rayner shares a read-aloud of The Backup Bunny.

Michelle Cusolito reads aloud her book Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible ALVIN (illustrated by Nicole Wong) while Jeff Angeley of Southcoast Lessons provides live musical accompaniment. You can find more resources related to Flying Deep here.

Author Meg Fleming shares a read-aloud of her picture book, Sometimes Rain.

S.K. Ali, co-author of THE PROUDEST BLUE, shares directions for making a paper boat.

The niece and nephew of Cedella Marley read her book, Get Up, Stand Up, a picture book adaptation of one of Bob Marley’s beloved songs that has a timely message for children: To counter injustice, lift others up with kindness and courage.

Author Lisa Yee talks about Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) and reads passages from the book. Writing prompt for today: Do you think boys and girls can be friends?

Would you rather be an #astronaut or #aquanaut? Perhaps you need more info to decide. Check out Jen Swanson’s video below. Then make your choice and draw a picture of your suit!

Author Jo Watson Hackl Shows How to Take Your Reading to the Next Level by Exploring the Natural World of Your Characters.

Author Heather L. Montgomery reads-aloud chapters from SOMETHING ROTTEN: A FRESH LOOK AT ROADKILL.

Author Heather Shumaker offers a weekly author chat called Fiction Friday. She shares tips and ideas for writing fiction, reads a short excerpt from her middle grade novel The Griffins of Castle Cary, adds in a mini writing lesson, a few corny jokes, and encouragement to young writers and readers.

Author Christina Diaz Gonzalez talks about finding writing inspiration from your own family history (video is in English and then in Spanish).

Kate Messner shares a read-aloud of HOW TO READ A STORY, illustrated by Mark Siegel & shared with permission from Chronicle Books.

Author Kimberly Derting shares a read-aloud of CECE LOVES SCIENCE with permission from HarperCollins.

Author & science teacher Anne Ruppert shares a try-it-at-home fingerprinting activity from SOLVE THIS: FORENSICS (by Kate Messner & Anne Ruppert, published by National Geographic)

Author Jacqueline West shares a read-aloud from The Shadows, volume one of her bestselling MG fantasy/mystery series The Books of Elsewhere, along with a writing activity for you (and possibly your pet!) that will help you think about character and dialogue. For more info and other videos, visit her website!

Author Carter Higgins shares a read-aloud of BIKES FOR SALE with permission from Chronicle Books.

Author Deborah Underwood reads FINDING KINDNESS, illustrated by Irene Chan (Godwin Books/Macmillan, 2019).

Author Melanie Crowder reads a chapter from her middle grade novel, Three Pennies, and shares a quick and easy craft to go with it. Writing Challenge: Think of one of your favorite books—does an animal make an appearance in the story? In Three Pennies, the author writes several chapters from the point of view of an owl (named Owl). Try to add a chapter to that favorite book you’ve got in mind, writing from the point of view of an animal in that story.

Author Cynthia Levinson reads The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton. Thanks to Simon & Schuster Kids for permission.

Loree Griffin Burns, author of books like Citizen Scientists and the upcoming picture book You’re Invited to a Moth Ball, shares her favorite book of all time: The Flora and Fauna of Hosmer Street. It’s not a book she wrote, but rather one she made with her three kids. For one year, Loree, Sam, Ben, and Cat committed themselves to getting to know their animal neighbors; what they found surprised them. In this video, Loree show listeners a few of their best finds (garter snake! walking stick! a skeleton!), what they learned (the more you look, the more you see!) and, of course, how to start creating The Flora and Fauna of Your Place.

Many people have heard of the secret network that helped many enslaved blacks escape to freedom in the North called the Underground Railroad. But how many of you have heard about the Overground Railroad? Author Lesa Cline-Ransome reads from her book, The Overground Railroad, illustrated by her husband, James Ransome.

Author Kathleen Blasi reads HOSEA PLAYS ON, which depicts a day in the life of street musician Hosea Taylor, who made his community better, with his open-hearted giving. After the read-aloud, you can take a look at the newspaper article that inspired Kathleen to learn more about Hosea Taylor and served as the research springboard for HOSEA PLAYS ON. 

Author Laya Steinberg reads her picture book THE BEST SUKKOT PUMPKIN EVER and shares a seed planting activity.

Author Jewell Parker Rhodes shares a read-aloud of the first chapter of GHOST BOYS.

Roy Freeman shares a read-aloud of CORDUROY, written and illustrated by his father, Don Freeman.

Author Nancy Tupper Ling shares a read-aloud, along with a lesson on how to make a list poem about your favorite place in the world.

Author Sarah Scheerger reads her picture book, Mitzvah Pizza, and shares a story about the real-life pay-it-forward pizza place that inspired the story. Classroom activities for the story are found here.


Writing Lessons! Many families are using this time at home to work on writing projects that range from stories and poems to special interest research reports and even novels. Here are some craft lessons from authors to help with ideas & strategies!

Author Meg Medina shares a video lesson on creating tension. 

Author Jennifer Torres shares a mini-workshop on setting with a video and pages to download.

Here’s a lesson from author Paula Chase on writing dual points of view.

Author Josephine Cameron shares creative writing tips about how choosing the perfect setting can help you shape the character, plot, and relationships in your story. 

Additional Resources:

Want to see even more author & illustrator videos? Check out the Authors Everywhere YouTube channel, created by Susan Tan!

Check out STEM Tuesday from The Mixed of Files of MG Authors blog for weekly book lists, interviews, and activities. 

Want to try writing some poetry today? Joyce Sidman shares an amazing collection of ideas to get you started.

Here’s another poetry lesson from Kathryn Apel – writing a didactic cinquain! 

If you’re stuck at home, it’s a great time to start a writer’s notebook! Author & Poet Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has a whole collection of posts from different writers, called “Sharing Our Notebooks.” Check it out -so many ideas here! 

Author Madelyn Rosenberg shares a collection of writing prompts here.

Here’s a collection of video mini-lessons from nonfiction author Melissa Stewart – great for teaching informational writing, including research, text features, text structure, rich language, voice, and revision.

Author & poet Laura Shovan shares a collection of poetry mini-lessons on her website! 

The folks at Middle Grade at Heart share a list of MG novels with discussions questions & related activities here.

Author Victoria Coe has a playlist of writing lessons for kids with 25 lessons.

Author Sarah Darer Littman offers short readings and writing prompts on her website.

On the Kids Ask Authors podcast, you can hear author/illustrator Grace Lin and a guest author answer a kid question! Kids can submit their own book reviews, poems or jokes!  Subscribe to the podcast here:

Erica S. Perl (@ericaperl) is doing a weekly Instagram live author event called “Winging It with Erica S. Perl” featuring read-alouds, writing prompts, and occasional shakings of a tail feather. Tune in every Tuesday at 2 pm EST and wish her good cluck!

The KidLit TV team, a group of diverse children’s book authors and illustrators, has created a virtual library of FREE read aloud, drawing & writing tutorials, podcasts, art activities + reading resources for kids.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author & illustrator, shares daily drawing lessons on his YouTube channel.

Author Kathryn Hulick invites you to investigate a ghost story as a scientist, based on her book STRANGE BUT TRUE.


New Books to Check Out! 

In case you’re missing your weekly trip to the library or bookstore, we also want to let you know about some new books out this spring!