By Dawn Heisel, Virginia Public Library

Lunch with Avi OR How to Get Kids Hooked on Reading
This is a very late report on my time spent at Spotlight on
Books held this year (for the first time ever) in Walker, MN.  I am very thankful that ALS sends librarians
to this conference for a lot of reasons.  Is my biggest reason is because it’s fun learning about new books in the
lightning rounds?  Nope.  Is it because it is exciting to hear authors
talk about how they took a small speckle of an idea and expanded it into
print?  Nada.  Is it because there’s always good food?  No, but close.  My favorite reason to go is because at
Spotlight I have the best luck in the world! 
Authors always choose to
sit at MY table.  I swear I’m not waiving
hundreds of dollars in the air or installing big blinking SIT HERE signs, but
it has happened at some point at every Spotlight that I’ve ever attended.  (Did I mention that I have Spotlight luck?)
This year was no different. 
A friend and I were tactically avoiding the munching crowd by sitting in
a different dining area.  Our theory was,
they can always tell us to move, but until then, we were enjoying the view and
our conversation.  So, there we were,
happily talking travel and a wild-haired man comes and asks to sit with
us.  Of course we were agog because it
was no less than our STAR SPEAKER, AVI! 
So, while being extremely polite and mildly conversational,
I stealthily began gathering data:  Avi
lives on a mountain in Colorado, far up on the mountain, so far up that he has
trouble getting cell phone signals and Internet connections, he has family in
Boston, his deadline was drawing near, so they left the mountain to stay in
Boston where he could answer his phone and use the Internet, unfortunately, it
snowed in Boston, a lot, every day it snowed, a lot, it kept snowing, a lot,
and then the power went out, he would have been better off staying on the
mountain, but the power came back on, he met his deadline, wrote his book, and went
back to his mountain.  That’s his story
and I’m sticking to it.
I always spend my Spotlight author time gathering secret
inside information to lure kids into books. 
And, it works!  I slowly release little known details and reel
them into reading. They love learning something their friends
don’t know.  They love learning even the
simplest facts.  And, it is great to pull
out one of those facts at the oddest times. 
I’ll be reading a picture book and say hey, look, here’s a picture of
the author’s parents, or their child, or a friend, or whatever I remember at
the time.  Or, if someone is waffling
about reading a book and I’ve met the author, I’ll say “Hey, years ago I had
lunch with…and mention an innocuous fact. 
They pick the book every time!

So, now when children come to the library and ask for Poppy and Rye, I say “Hey, did you know
that I had lunch with Avi last April?  Their
eyes go big and they gulp “Really?” “Yep, and he lives on a mountain in Colorado”….