This week, the first week of May, is special to me for two reasons, well maybe three: Spring should actually be here to stay in my area, especially have a several-inch dumping of snow late last week; May 1 to 7 is Children’s Book Week, and it’s also considered Be Kind to Animals Week. Although spring is very important, especially to those of us in the west who deal with spring snow storms, I want to focus on the other two reasons I like this week: kids and books, and kindness and animals.
Children’s Book Week began in 1919 and is promoted by the Children’s Book Council. It’s a week to celebrate children’s books, children’s authors, reading, and writing. I remember falling in love with reading thanks to authors like E.B. White and Laura Ingalls Wilder and books such as Black Beauty, The Trumpet of the Swan, and Follow My Leader. Little did I know then that I’d grow up to write my own children’s books, with animals as characters and life lessons woven into those stories.
Be Kind to Animals Week is celebrated this week as well. Started nearly 100 years ago by American Humane, the idea is to teach children kindness toward animals, in particular to companion animals, like dogs and cats. I’m grateful this special recognition overlaps with Children’s Book Week, for, as an author of children’s books with animals as characters, I can integrate my authorship with events celebrating books, children, animals, and kindness. In fact, this week I’m blessed to have three events: two out-of-town and one at my community’s library. I’m sharing these events with other children’s book authors I’ve met. We’re reaching kids with strong, positive messages, such as kindness, self-confidence, and friendship, as well as providing activities, including making their own books. And my dog, Mary, is part of the “cast” at these events as well!
Mary has her own book, released last month. Titled A Kind Dog Named Mary, this book teaches kids the importance of pet adoption and the importance of being kind. I use real photos of my real dog, and having the children meet her and hear her story makes those vital lessons all the more vivid and real to them.
As an author, sometimes it’s challenging to tie our works into special recognitions, but it can be done. There are special days, weeks, and months for nearly all occasions – for example, did you know there’s a National Artichoke Hearts Day? Yep, it’s in March, the day before St. Patrick’s Day. Women’s History Month is also observed in March; for those who write historical fiction/romance, that might be a good time of year to tie in with your books. National History Day, a time of learning and competition for students, usually takes place in June; this, too, might be a good tie-in for those who write non-fiction or fiction books based in another time period.
Writing about animals, primarily dogs and cats, allows me to tie in with various observances, including Be Kind to Animals Week, but also Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month (June), Responsible Dog Ownership Days (September), Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month (October), and Adopt-A-Senior-Pet Month (November). Last year, I conducted a few library programs and booksignings around Take Your Dog to Work Day, which happens the fourth Friday of June; my programs included information on the jobs that dogs do, including law enforcement, service to the disabled, and herding. I try to coordinate book events in October and November that will benefit my local animal shelter and hope to do so again this year.
As Children’s Book Week and Be Kind to Animals Week wrap up for this year, I’m working on my next children’s pet stories, to have available by the holiday season, maybe sooner since Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month occurs in October. Children and books, children and animals, and books about animals are all close to my heart, and it’s my desire to engage children with reading as well as writing and to remind them of the gifts of both literacy and pets.
What books intrigued you as a child? Were any of them, or the authors, reasons you became a writer? Do you have special times during the year that you tie your writings with? And, the biggest question of all – has anyone written a book about artichokes yet?! Have a great weekend everyone – Happy Writing!
Gayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational pet books for children and adults. She weaves life lessons into her works, including friendship, self-confidence, courage, and kindness. She is also a contributing writer to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books and has a story in Sundown’s 2016 release Memories from Maple Street USA: Pawprints on My Heart. Learn more about Gayle at www.gaylemirwin.com. She also maintains a pet blog on her website, dispensing interesting and fun information about companion animals and volunteers for regional animal rescue organizations.