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What is an Author Study?
Author studies are essentially unit studies based around the books of one author. I loved using author studies in my classroom and they are even more fun in our homeschool. This type of unit is an excellent way to motivate emerging and fluent readers and to inspire young writers and artists.
Author studies can be used on any level. Use picture books and easy readers on the preschool and elementary levels. Then, move on to chapter books for fluent readers.
In this post, I will discuss the benefits of an author study and share how to create your own in 5 easy steps. Don’t have time to create your own unit plans? Read on for our favorite author studies, complete with book lists, internet links, and printables.
Benefits of an Author Study
Fall in love with a writer
Author studies offer the unique opportunity of getting to know and love a writer. Think about it: as adults we frequently choose books by the same author again and again. Whether it’s a series or a certain style of writing we enjoy, we find ourselves gravitating to the same writers we’ve grown to love over many years.
Encourage your child to get to know a favorite author. Go on new adventures with strange characters who soon become old friends.
Take a break from curriculum
There are certain points in the year that we just need a break! Do you ever feel this way? Sometimes we have a field trip week, but it’s not always possible to spend a whole week out!
Taking a break from our regular language arts curriculum and working on an author study is like a breath of fresh air! We read books by an author that we already know and love, work on projects, do a few crafts, and all without losing our learning momentum.
Motivate your child to read
I want to motivate my kids to read everything they can, and I want to motivate them to read quality writing. Author studies are motivating because at the beginning they are child led – we always start with a book my kids know and love and then launch into the world of the author.
How To Create an Author Study
in 5 easy steps
1 Choose an author your child loves
Does your child have a favorite book? One you’ve read over and over until the cover is falling off? Is there a series or collection in your house that takes up an entire shelf? Or have you just found a new favorite? A chapter book that had you both laughing out loud as you turned the pages? Start here. Let your child guide you to their favorite writer.
Read on for an easy-to-read infographic.
2 Revisit old favorites and find new ones
Include your child’s favorite books in your author study. Whether you read them first, as a hook, or last with new eyes, your child will enjoy revisiting an old favorite.
If you are creating your own author study, do a little research online before you get started. Some children’s authors have hundreds of books to choose from – you may have even read a few and not known it! Search for their most popular titles or award winners, and keep in mind your child’s interests.
3 Read in different ways
There are so many ways to enjoy a book. An author study gives you the chance to explore many books over the course of a few days, weeks, or even months! Snuggling up on the couch and reading picture books or a chapter book is great, but you’ll also have the opportunity to explore other ways of reading.
It’s wonderful for kids to hear a variety of different readers – whether it’s the author or another adult. Different intonations and patterns in reading rhythms will help your child develop their own reading voice.
We love listening to audio books in the car. Many children’s authors record their own audio books. What a great way to hear the voice and expression of all your favorite characters in the way the author intended them to be heard. Find CDs or Play-Aways at your library or try an Audible Membership.
Book Kits or DIY
I love using audio books to save my voice, but my son loves looking at the pictures and reading along with the pages. Get the best of both worlds when you pick out a read-along book kit (book and audio CD). The library is a great place to start. Kits might be in a different section, so be sure to ask your librarian.
There aren’t many book kits for older readers, so we often DIY our own. Just pair any chapter book with the same (unabridged) audio book.
In addition to reading paper books, my son also loves to read online. We use the Epic! app for unlimited access to children’s books and Reading Eggs which also has a huge library to browse.
Watch a Read-Aloud
I love using YouTube to watch our favorite picture books read aloud. Some popular children’s titles even have animated read-alouds and sing-alongs.
4 Meet the author
Dig into author studies by researching the writer(s) and illustrators of your favorite books. Many contemporary authors have websites with interviews, videos, and resources designed for their biggest fans. You can also find biographies and interviews about authors from the past online through the publisher or a trusty Google search.
Your young reader probably does not think much about the person who is writing their books. It’s important to make that connection – especially for budding storytellers.
… and the illustrator
Does your child love art and illustrations? Some authors are also illustrators. Take a closer look by comparing different books. A list of 75 Authors/Illustrators Everyone Should Know by ReadingRockets.
5 Link the books with a project
You may already create projects and crafts to go along with the books you read. An author study opens up a even more possibilities! I’ve listed some ideas for what to write, play, and create to bring your author study together. To make it a little easier on you, I’ve also created this 8 page Author Study Printable Pack with everything you need to bring your unit to life!
Write a story about what happens when characters from different stories meet.
Pretend to be the author and write a sequel to your favorite book.
Write a fan letter to the author or illustrator.
Use a venn diagram to compare and contrast different books’ characters, themes, settings.
Write an author or illustration biography.
Host a character party where each child plays a character from a different book.
Have an only child? A character tea party where your child is the main character and stuffed animals and dolls play the supporting roles!
Create a puppet show or put on a play with characters from different books.
Make a collage or poster featuring a picture of the author and the books you read.
Make an accordion timeline of your author’s career with book titles and/or life events.
Learn to draw the characters from your favorite illustrator,
Or create your own version of the characters!
Free Author Study
In the coming weeks, I’ll be bringing you a variety of author studies complete with book lists and resources! Be sure to book mark our Unit Studies page to keep up with the latest!