Children’s-YA Book Community Strategies for Sharing While Social Distancing

By Stephani Martinell Eaton

Closed. Canceled. Rescheduled. These are words we are hearing over and over.

As COVID-19 spreads, life is changing each day. With so many closures and cancellations, many within the children’s-YA book community are finding ways to use technology to bring people together, sharing their love of books without sharing the germs.

Lauren Tarshis is a children’s author and editor of Scholastic’s Storyworks magazine. Lauren has posted resources and articles that teach about coronavirus and its spread via Twitter. Scholastic provides resources targeted at grades K-3, 4-5, and 6-12. Lauren also has shared Scholastic’s Learn at Home Hub, which offers cross-curricular activities for children to do independently, with families, or with teachers.

Author Kate Messner, a former classroom teacher, has curated a digital “library of resources for kids, families, teachers, and librarians to make sure that reading and learning can happen anywhere this spring.” She is continually adding content and links to the site.

Author-illustrator Grace Lin has launched a podcast, Kids Ask Authors. Every week, Grace and a guest author will answer one question. Podcasts will run about five-to-ten minutes.

Susan Tan, a middle grade author, introduced the YouTube channel Authors Everywhere! The channel will feature creators of children’s literature talking about books and writing as well as providing some creative prompts for the listeners at home.

Author and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi is posting a daily creative challenge for kids on Twitter with the hashtag #KidsDailyDebbieOhi. Likewise, author-illustrator and Education Artist in Residence at the Kennedy Center Mo Willems is posting daily videos to his Kennedy Center page encouraging children to write and draw with him.

Likewise, authors such as Anne Bustard, who’s releasing Blue Skies (Simon & Schuster, 2020) today, are highlighting educational resources on Pinterest.

In a recent Publishers Weekly article, Bookstores, Children’s Authors Respond as Coronavirus Impact Grows, Alex Green describes the impact on conferences as well as author book tours. Publishers Weekly is also maintaining a list of cancellations, closings, and policy changes.

In response to the growing list of conference cancellations and postponements, authors Ellen Oh, Melanie Conklin, Christina Soontornvat and more are working on developing a virtual writing conference called Everywhere Book Fest. The conference website states it is “a virtual gathering of kidlit authors, books, and readers that will bring the book festival experience to everyone.” The Everywhere Book Fest is scheduled for May 1 and May 2.

Debut authors, especially, have been looking for new and creative ways to promote and launch their books with the many cancellations.

YA debut author Nora Carpenter said, “Social distancing has really changed the book community’s landscape. Authors, particularly debuts, depend so much on conferences, school visits, and in-store events to get the word out about their books. I’ve had fourteen events cancelled, and that’s really tough, but everyone has been really wonderful–asking to reschedule later in the summer or fall.

“Additionally, some heavily-followed authors are going above and beyond to help debuts. Amie Kaufman, for example, is hosting a weekly Twitter chat on Monday evenings 8 p.m., to introduce the next day’s debuts. (I’ll be on there March 24.)

“Bloggers are reaching out and boosting debuts. And there’s a lot you can do with virtual marketing, too. Kelly Anne Blount is still going to interview me about The Edge of Anything (Running Press Teens, 2020), but instead of it happening at Malaprop’s Books, we’re doing an Instagram Live.

“We’re all in this together, and people are really stepping up.”

With new cases being confirmed daily and social-distancing practices in place, watch for more of these types of alternatives to pop up. Be sure to follow the authors in this post (as well as Cynthia Leitich Smith) on Twitter as many will post or retweet related resources as they hear about them.

With more time at home, bookish sorts are looking forward to more time for reading and writing. As you comb through your to-be-read lists, don’t forget about your local indie bookstores.

While it may not be feasible to shop in-person, many indies are offering free shipping now and will take orders on their websites or over the phone. is also an online bookseller that supports independent booksellers.

What’s more, most library systems have great online resources and digital material like e-books and audio books. Moreover, many libraries are regularly posting important information about the virus for their communities.

Cynsational Notes

Stephani Martinell Eaton holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts where she won the Candlewick Picture Book Award and the Marion Dane Bauer Award for middle grade fiction.