In just three years, talented and industrious Kansas City author Derrick Barnes has published eight books through youth publishing giant Scholastic. But when his fourth son was born, Barnes needed extra income to pay the bills.
So he, like many professional, published authors, began looking for work.
“I was looking for a job that was in line with what I do as an author,” says Barnes.
When a friend forwarded Barnes a job listing for a part-time position in the Library’s Outreach department, he saw the opportunity to ply his skills as a crafter and reader of stories for children. Soon, he will begin conducting reading programs on behalf of the Library through the Stories to Go program.
“It’s a nice little marriage,” he says.
Barnes is best known for his Ruby and the Booker Boys series of books about a quick-witted underdog girl trying to stand out in a family of boys. He’s also published several teen novels, including the recent We Could Be Brothers, which he discussed earlier this year at the Kansas City Public Library as part of the Guys Read program.
As a working author, Barnes frequently visits schools and libraries to read his books and share his experiences as a writer. The Library job will provide him practice in the off season – and afford him the chance to do a little market research.
“I’ll be getting a chance to talk to the kids I’ll be writing for,” Barnes says. “I also love meeting educators, parents, and other advocates of literacy. I like to get a feel for what kind of books they’d like to see.”
“I’m always looking for chances to sharpen my presentation skills,” Barnes adds.
As part of the Library’s Building a Community of Readers initiative, Barnes will get to use those skills to benefit children throughout the community.
Over the next year, Barnes and his fellow Outreach associate, Rob Herron, will conduct interactive story time programs at dozens of sites around Kansas City, working under the direction of the Library’s new Education Outreach Librarian, Anna Francesca Garcia.
Many of the sites (largely day care and pre-K centers) already have Library books delivered on a regular basis through the Library’s Books to Go program. Now they’ll be getting live readers – one of whom has a unique perspective on the value of early literacy.
“I’ll be a great chance to interact with children and talk about how literacy and reading have molded my life,” Barnes says.