PW: What made you want to write How to Get Your Child to Love Reading?

Esme Raji Codell: It evolved from my first book, Educating Esme. I toured 45 cities, and when I talked to parents and teachers about reading, it seemed like they didn't really have what they needed to make literacy happen for kids. Not everyone knows how to find the best books, let alone use them; I realized maybe I could write something helpful.

PW: How did you research it?

ERC: The jumping-off point was my own lesson-plan book. Since I left teaching, I've gone into the schools weekly to read aloud to the children. All the suggestions in my book are teacher-tested and kid-approved. I know how tight people's budgets are, so everything recommended has lasting merit.

PW: What prompted you to write a children's book?

ERC: I missed the children. I was on the road and I wanted to write something that would express my wish that school could be a really fun place where children could discover themselves.

PW: How long did it take you to write the reading book?

ERC: About three years, but it really comes from my experience as a bookseller, teacher and librarian.

PW: You're not working as a school librarian now?

ERC: No, I've been writing full-time and I run a children's literature Web site,

PW: You emphasize the authors behind the books. Why?

ERC: Connecting children with book creators was super important to me. Communication is the point of writing a book, and so often children are segregated from the idea that there's somebody trying to talk to them in every book they pick up. The relationship between author and child is amazing; for many children a relationship with an author may be the first he has had outside his or her own community.

PW: Is there too much emphasis on reading levels and test scores today?

ERC: I don't think any author writes a book because they hope that a child will improve her test scores. My book asserts that Johnny can read, and will read as long as we present books in an accessible way, based on interest and motivation and people and not just on book levels and test scores.

PW: Are there some kids who really don't like to read?

ERC: Children have varied histories of reading. Some children have really great reading life stories and others are tragic and full of failure. I've told grown-up friends of mine, 'Reading's like sex; if you don't enjoy it you just haven't been doing it with the right person.' I didn't put that in the book, of course!

PW: Can one overcome that history?

ERC: Yes. I'm a behaviorist; when you give someone something to feel positive about they'll return to it. I don't think worksheet-land, or tests or assignments are positive, but there's a lot about reading for pleasure that's positive, like having someone be interested in the same things that interest you. Those are all easy, positive things that help a child to see that reading is someplace he can go for information, acceptance and connection and not just a grade on a report card.

PW: How did you decide on the book's format?

ERC: That was really hard. The original manuscript was a thousand pages and it was just sort of this brain hurricane that happened over a long period. My editor helped me organize it into subject areas.

PW: You include lots of great ideas for activities and related projects.

ERC: I wanted to bring books into actual life—into the kitchen, and the bathroom, not just the classroom—so that books are part of every day, not in a cloistered place. I included lots of bells and whistles and quite a few sugary recipes.

PW: Future projects?

ERC: More children's books, and an autobiography of growing up in Chicago. Most of all, putting great books into the hands of great kids.