Malia Maunakea, author of the Lei and the Legends series, had been working to find grant money to fund a Title 1 school tour and book giveaways across Hawaii. The resources were obtained with coordination between We Need Diverse Books and Writers and Artists Across the Country, and Maunakea visited 20 schools.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say it was one of the best experiences of my life,” Maunakea says. “I got to go back to the elementary school where my dad was part of the first graduating class—with my dad!—and give books [copies of Lei and the Fire Goddess] to all of the students. I heard exclamations of ‘We get to keep it?!’ Some teachers got teary in the back of packed gymnasiums, coming up after to tell me this was the first book many of their students own. Kids would examine the cover and say Lei looks like them. I’d tell them about some of the legends in Lei and the Fire Goddess and I didn’t have to explain who Pele or Kamapua‘a [a shape-shifting half man/half pig god of Hawaiian mythology] were because they already knew. One boy shared his own mo‘olelo [story or myth] of when his dad saw Kamapua‘a while out hunting. Being able to give this back to the children of Hawaii was the most incredible gift I could have ever asked for, and I’m forever grateful for the team at WAAC for helping make it happen.”

Author Veronica Roth knew she wanted to be involved with WAAC since the group’s debut. “I’d done a school visit tour where at least one school a day was a Title I school, places where they had typically never hosted an author before,” Roth says. “I found that more often than not, when you give a school that maybe doesn’t have the same resources the chance to host an author, they do a pretty awesome job—they just need someone to give them the opportunity. So, when I spoke to the WAAC founders early on about their mission to help schools connect to authors and facilitate those visits, I was excited about their work from the start. It benefits every single one of us if kids of all backgrounds, in all places, get the chance to connect with authors and other creative people. The closer we can get to that goal, the better.”

Roth has done two visits with WAAC, one in person and one virtual. “Both went really well,” she says. “It’s a privilege for an author to connect with readers directly. School visits are about making sure students have a good time, get more interested in reading, and do some dreaming about what creative work they’d like to do in their own lives. I certainly hope my visit helped with those things, even a little. And I wouldn’t have gotten to meet those particular student groups without WAAC facilitating.”

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