Renée Watson recently embarked on a six-city tour for the final installment in her Ryan Hart chapter book series, Ways to Build Dreams (Bloomsbury). Over the course of three weeks, she spoke to approximately 2,200 students at 21 schools, visited 15 bookstores and libraries, and sold more than 1,500 copies of her new book. We’ve rounded up highlights from her tour here.
Watson kicked off her tour in New York City, visiting two schools—P.S. 89 in the Bronx and P.S. 15 in Brooklyn—with Meet the Writers, a nonprofit group that brings diverse authors and artists to N.Y.C. schools. More than 250 students each received a copy of Ways to Build Dreams. Watson also appeared at the New School, her alma mater, in conversation with actor and author Karyn Parsons, with book sales by Word Up.
Watson greeting readers at P.S. 89 in the Bronx.
Chatting with a student at P.S. 15 in Brooklyn.
Watson with Karyn Parsons (l.) at the New School.
Returning to her hometown of Portland, Ore., which is also the setting of the Ryan Hart series, Watson appeared on AM Northwest for a live segment on October 20, and drew a packed house at her public event at Powell’s Cedar Hills Crossing that evening. On October 23, Harriet Tubman Middle School hosted four Portland-area elementary schools for Watson’s visit, including her alma mater, Vernon Elementary. Each student also received a copy of Ways to Build Dreams through Third Eye Books.
Speaking to attendees at Powell’s Cedar Hills Crossing.
Signing for a fan at Powell’s.
A billboard heralded Watson’s appearance at Powell’s.
Next, Watson headed south to Los Angeles, where Malik Books hosted her for a school visit and an evening event in conversation with author and mental fitness speaker Erika Kendrick. The next day, she spoke to students at KIPP SoCal public schools via the Creating Conversations bookstore.
Watson with students in Los Angeles.
Watson then traveled to Houston where she appeared at several independent bookstores. She visited two schools through Brazos Bookstore, signed stock with Blue Willow, and had a Banned Bookmobile event with Kindred Stories, which was covered by the local TV station. She was also the featured author of Inprint Houston’s Cool Brains series, who organized a weekend fieldtrip for local students and their families and purchased copies of her book. “Renee’s work has had a profound impact on us and so many teachers and young readers in our community,” said Terri Hamm, owner of Kindred Stories.
A visit to Jessup Elementary School, sponsored by Brazos Bookstore. The school’s librarian decorated the event space with the meaning of the teachers’ names, a key element in the Ryan Hart series.
Watson with Chanecka Williams (l.), book and experience curator at Kindred Stories, and Terri Hamm (r.), owner of Kindred Stories, at the Banned Books Mobile event in Houston.
Speaking to attendees at Inprint Houston’s Cool Brains event.
Meeting readers at her Cool Brains appearance.
In Atlanta, Watson visited bookstores Brave + Kind, the Book Worm, and the Little Shop of Stories. Through Brave + Kind’s school visit at Barnwell Elementary on Character Day/Halloween, Watson met several girls dressed as Ryan Hart, which Watson called “a sight to behold!” The next day, Little Shop hosted a culminating event at Fifth Avenue Upper Elementary for its We Read Together program, which encouraged families to read Ways to Build Dreams over the summer, and had 500 participants.
Arriving at Book Worm Bookstore in Powder Springs, Ga.
Meeting a Ryan Hart lookalike at Barnwell Elementary.
Addressing the crowd at Fifth Avenue Upper Elementary.
Watson then headed to Baltimore, where the Enoch Pratt Free Library hosted a multi-city school visit, with over 150 students bussed in from local schools; the library purchased copies of Ways to Build Dreams for those students. She also appeared at Empowerment Academy in the afternoon, and all fourth and fifth graders received copies as well. Books were purchased through The Ivy Bookshop.
Signing for students at Empowerment Academy.
Watson concluded her tour with several appearances in Washington, D.C., with an event at the Petworth Library with sales by Loyalty Bookstore, a multi-school visit with Politics & Prose, and a school visit through An Open Book Foundation that took place at the Planet Word Museum. At Petworth Library, one reader brought her whole Renée Watson collection to be signed. Heidi Yoon, community outreach coordinator at Politics & Prose, said, “Renée was warm, engaging, and wonderful with the students. She also spoke to each of the students on their way out of the store, which was really meaningful to them.”
On the last leg of her tour in Washington, D.C., the author signed a student’s entire collection of Renée Watson books.