Tucson author and illustrator Adam Rex will share about his new picture book "On Account of the Gum." 

Fridays just got way more creative. 

Every Friday, Tucson families and classes can connect with a children's book author or illustrator online thanks to a collaboration between the Worlds of Words: Center of Global Literacies and Literatures at the University of Arizona and the Tucson Festival of Books

The 40-minute, livestreamed webinars — dubbed Imagination Fridays — are directed at elementary-age kids and moderated by Kathy G. Short, the founder and director of Worlds of Words and the chair of the festival's children and teens author committee. The idea is that parents and teachers can use the webinar to engage kids with reading and writing. 

"One of the things we have realized from the festival is that meeting authors and illustrators is transformational for children as readers," Short says. "They get excited when they meet someone who created a well-loved book, but also they might find a new favorite. We were thinking about how we could bring that excitement to children, knowing that right now children aren't getting the same exposure to books and authors they would normally have in classrooms." 

Although Short is the moderator, the webinars are set up so that the author or illustrator does most of the talking, sharing about a new book and offering a writing or illustrating prompt to get kids involved in their own creative process. Kids will also have the chance to ask questions through the chat. 

The initial lineup features authors and illustrators with new fall books who were slated to attend the canceled Tucson Festival of Books in March. Imagination Fridays started Sept. 18 and will be scheduled into December, Short says. 

Parents and teachers can pre-register kids for the webinar and join live or access a recording after the event. 

Imagination Fridays are reminiscent of the monthly Worlds of Words Book Fiestas the center hosted before the pandemic. Those writing and illustrating workshops highlighted Arizona authors, Short says. The online format has broadened who can join. 

"We can bring in this really nice range (of authors and illustrators) that connects to — hopefully — all kinds of books, from graphic novels to folklore to nonfiction," Short says. 

Families will also have the opportunity to order corresponding signed books from the UA BookStores

"Once children realize that books are written by real people and hear about how they created those stories, it also encourages them to be authors and illustrators," Short says. "It becomes something that is possible in their own lives." 

If you go

What: Connect with a children's book author or illustrator at Imagination Fridays

When: Fridays, September-December, 1 p.m. 

Where: Online

Cost: Free

More info: Visit the Tucson Festival of Books or Worlds of Words websites for a list of upcoming speakers and to register and access past recordings

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