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Five Questions With… Tommy Greenwald (Katie Friedman Gives Up Texting! (And Lives To Tell About It.))

By ILA Staff
 | Jun 12, 2015

Tommy Greenwald is an author. And a dad. And the creative director at a company that makes advertisements for Broadway shows. He has a passion for education and encouraging reluctant readers to be not so reluctant. But not in a pushy kind of way.

You often mention in interviews that your sons, who did not like reading, influenced you to create a reluctant reader as a character to interest them. Are you serious when you say they haven’t read a book since the first installment of the Charlie Joe Jackson series?

No, they have definitely read some books! They’re all in college now, and they get to pick and choose (somewhat) what books they want to read, so that helps. Kids often ask me, “Do your sons like to read now?” And I tell them that they like to read a lot more than they used to, but they still don’t voluntarily curl up with a good book all that often. It’s a gradual process—but it’s headed in the right direction!

Do you have any advice for parents, especially those of boys, to get their reluctant readers excited about books?

I’m gonna go with the old horse-to-water adage here. I don’t think you can put a book in a child’s hands and expect them to read it. But expose them to all sorts of different kinds of books, and hopefully something will stick—then show them a bunch more of that kind of book. And if that doesn’t work, go with bribery. I find chocolate milkshakes work great.

I read your bio, and I didn’t notice any direct link to the classroom. What made you, as an author, so interested in education and getting into the classroom?

I didn’t set out specifically to become part of the classroom, or a curriculum. My goal when I started was simple: to get kids involved in a book. It could be in or out of the classroom, didn't matter. But what I realized when I became a published author is that without the classroom, or the school library, or the public library, or the people in charge of those places, there is no book. Kids need help finding the book that might make them give reading a chance. My deep gratitude goes out to all those who provide that help!!

It almost seems that you have an inner teacher. What is your favorite part about school visits?

I have to admit, I enjoy school visits way more than the writing process. The kids make it all worthwhile. I love making them laugh and then slipping in a little teaching when they’re not looking. 

You mention that your favorite part of writing a book is finishing it and that you often find any distractions for not writing. How do you counteract distractions?

Truth be told, I don’t counteract the distractions. I embrace them as part of my writing process. I’m not one of these people who can hole up and crank out a bunch of pages. I write a sentence, check e-mail, write a sentence, check Facebook, write a sentence, check ESPN, write a sentence, pet the dog—you get the idea. I’ve come to accept that’s my writing process. As long as I get my thousand words a day done, I’m good. 

Greenwald will copresent with educators and fellow children’s book authors Sunday, July 19, at the ILA 2015 Conference in St. Louis, MO. Entitled “Authors Whose Books Transform and Engage Readers: Connecting Readers With Characters and Book Series,” award-winning authors and illustrators will discuss the ways they use language and visuals to inform, inspire, and engage readers. Visit the ILA 2015 Conference website for more information or to register.

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