Oklahoma’s Reading Roundup Corrals Thousands of Participants

Artist and book illustrator Christopher Nick entertains students in Okeene.

More than 16,000 children, teens, teachers, librarians, parents, and library friends participated during the state’s four-year Reading Roundup Author Tour, which held its finale in Hennessey on September 25.
Almost 3,700 people attended this fall’s tours featuring author Lutricia Clifton (Seeking Cassandra) and illustrator Christopher Nick (Dust Storm).

Conceived in 2015, the “DoubleR” tour was inspired by a grant from the Reading Trust that helped place recent Oklahoma Book Award-winning children’s and young adult titles in all of the state’s public libraries.

The Oklahoma Department of Libraries and its Oklahoma Center for the Book (OCB) approached the Friends of the Center, Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma (FOLIO), and other sponsors to fund tours of the authors and illustrators of those books each fall from 2015 to 2018.

With the exception of one urban location, the program focused on bringing authors to rural libraries and schools, many of them hosting an author for the first time. Each fall featured two authors/illustrators, with each visiting five communities. Presentations were held at local schools during the day, with a public library program in the evening.

“We know it’s difficult for many smaller public libraries and school systems to fund presenters for programs,” OCB Director Connie Armstrong said, “so we loved the idea of taking these authors around the state.”

Armstrong worked with Adrienne Butler, ODL’s youth services consultant, and Vicki Mohr, administrator of ODL’s Office of Library Development, on coordinating the annual tour. The state library’s Public Information Office helped local libraries advertise their events with promotional materials.

Friends played an important role throughout the project, according to Armstrong. “The financial assistance of FOLIO and the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book was instrumental in accomplishing the tour,” she said. “And the local library friends groups were the perfect hosts at each stop, often helping the library provide door prizes and assisting with activities related to the author’s book.”

Past authors on the tour included Sonja Gensler (The Revenant), Tara Hudson (Hereafter trilogy), Hannah Harrison (Extraordinary Jane), Roy Deering (Finders Keepers), Cynthea Liu (Bike on, Bear!), and Alton Carter (The Boy Who Carried Bricks).

Armstrong said she and other ODL staff who accompanied the authors on the tour returned with some wonderful stories. “Some of the young people who attended the school program would convince their parents to take them to the public library program in the evening. These children wanted to introduce their parents to the amazing author they had met at school.”

Many children and teens expressed an interest in pursuing writing and wanted to know what advice the author would give. Clifton’s book, Seeking Cassandra, features a journal-writing protagonist, and children and teens at the public library programs were given their own journal to record their thoughts and feelings.

One teacher said she had promised her students she would bring an author to the school before they left elementary school, and the tour helped her keep her promise.

Author Alton Carter, who grew up in foster care and has written about the teacher who made a difference in his life, employed a unique moment of audience participation. He split up the teachers and students, and then asked the students to go to the teacher who was making a difference in their life, and to tell that teacher how much they appreciated him or her. Armstrong witnessed this at a school in Watonga. “Afterward, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services also provided funding for the Reading Roundup. Best of Books served as bookseller for the tour.