What started as an “early finisher” activity for students five years ago has turned into one of my signature projects in the fourth grade. Each year, my students prepare a letter to a favorite book author as one of our first writing assignments. They start by hunting down contact information for the author (research skills!). Then, they brainstorm reasons they like a particular author and his/her book(s). We review business letter format, and the students draft a letter to the author. After editing, the students prepare their final draft, and we mail the first wave of letters.
From that first letter drop, we might receive a reply within a few weeks or wait close to nine months to get a reply. After we walk through the process of creating an author letter, students continue to write letters when they have free time. We send and receive letters all year.
I wrote a post a few years ago about this project but since we received our first author reply this afternoon, I got excited and thought I needed to blog about the project again. It is one of the best ways I have found to motivate reading with my students! It is easy to write a book author, but if you want a higher reply success rate, I have some suggestions.
- Newer authors have websites with an e-mail address and are more likely to send a personal reply. We e-mailed Jody Feldman, Jonathan Auxier, Tracy Barrett, Erica Kirov, and a few others. In most cases, we received replies within three days. The replies were unique and specifically responded to the letter written by the students. Some authors even gave new book suggestions, which built excitement among the students to pick up an unfamiliar book.
- Other authors provide a snail mail address on their website. These replies take longer– sometimes up to three months, so be patient. Kate Klise has written us back for the past four year and each letter contains different content.
- Mega authors like J.K. Rowling and Sharon Creech are overloaded with letters and are less likely to reply to fanmail personally. They will send a generic reply if you include a self-addressed stamped envelope with your letter.
- If you can’t find contact information on the author website, locate a mailing address for the author’s publishing company. Mail a letter to the author c/o the publisher. Publishers will forward all mail to the author. We mailed a letter to John Christopher via his publisher. We did not realize that the author had passed away, and his daughter actually replied to our letter several months later!
To download free student materials for this activity from my TpT store, CLICK HERE.