By Gloria Reichert
Last year, at the recommendation of a friend, I participated in Reading for Research Month for the first time. This helpful educational experience introduced me to multitudes of picture books I probably would not have discovered otherwise. Daily posts by leaders in the picture book field and lists of mentor texts guided my growth as an author and challenged me to apply these new ideas to my own writing.
Since ReFoReMo was such a positive experience for me, I wanted to acquaint others with this opportunity. Carrie Charley Brown and Kirsti Call, coordinators of ReFoReMo, graciously accepted my request to answer questions about ReFoReMo. Their thoughtful answers will inform you about ReFoReMo and give registration information.
What exactly is ReFoReMo? How did the concept for ReFoReMo originate?
Carrie: The Reading for Research Month Challenge, or ReFoReMo, is a month-long craft-focused challenge for writers of all ages that utilizes picture books as mentor texts to learn more about stellar craft. As an educator, I knew how much stellar picture books impacted the writing process for elementary students. As a picture book writer, looking back on my extensive study of mentor texts and a goal to continue this habit as new releases came out, I wanted to share this study with others. But it wasn’t until my participation as a 2014 CYBILS fiction picture book panelist that the idea for ReFoReMo occurred to me. I read hundreds of picture books in 1.5 shorts months and felt the impact of what separated the great from the not-so-great. I noticed that even writers of any level could benefit from focused mentor text study. It was then that the idea of ReFoReMo was born! After the inaugural year in 2015, I assessed the unexpected overwhelming response and teamed up with my writing partner, Kirsti Call, to handle the challenge as a partnership.
Kirsti: I’m grateful that Carrie invited me to help with ReFoReMo. There is nothing better than working with my writing partner on something as important as writing good books! As a published picture book author and CYBILS panelist myself, I’ve read and studied hundreds of picture books in short periods of time and it makes a huge difference in my ability to write well. Reading stellar books really helps us write stellar books.
When does ReFoReMo occur, and how is it handled?
The ReFoReMo challenge takes place every March. Through daily educational posts written by authors, illustrators, educators, and publishing professionals, paired with lists of mentor text recommendations that reinforce specific craft elements, participants receive an entire month of varying perspectives that many participants have compared to a master-level craft class. We strive to post a list of our presenters’ recommendations before the challenges begins, so people will be ready to read and study the mentor texts as they read the posts. Participants range from writers and illustrators of all levels of experience to classroom teachers and their students and librarians.
Registration opens on February 19 this year, with specific instructions in a blog post at www.reforemo.com. Participants will receive the daily posts in their inbox when they sign up for the blog. It is a free challenge and there is a Facebook discussion group for participants to share study thoughts.
How does one become involved with ReFoReMo?
As mentioned above, registrations for the ReFoReMo challenge begin in February, but you can participate in ReFoReMo all year by subscribing to our blog, and joining our facebook group. We post something about picture books every week during months outside of March.
What should participants expect?
Here’s the general schedule for this year:
March 1-2 ~PREPARATION PERIOD~ with Carrie Charley Brown and Kirsti Call
Participants will read preparation posts that will help them get the most out of the challenge. They will reserve library books while reflecting on their own manuscripts and needs. Participants will need a library card and a willingness to seek out books.
MARCH 5-29 ~READING & RESEARCH PERIOD~
Guest presenters will offer craft perspective and mentor text recommendations for participants through daily blog posts. Participants will read & research writing craft through the recommended mentor texts and any others that may relate to their own manuscripts.
March 30 ~REFLECT AND SHARE~
Participants will relate what they have learned to their own manuscripts & share with others on our blog and in our Facebook discussion group.
What do you want participants to take away from ReFoReMo?
We want others to benefit from developing a regular research habit. There is deep research waiting underneath great mentor texts that we can learn a lot from. We hope that participants gain a greater appreciation for this process and learn about their own writing by recognizing what they love in other people’s books.
What has been your most rewarding experience resulting from your involvement with ReFoReMo?
Carrie: Hearing that our mentor text study has inspired others and helped our participants grow as creatives is a huge reward for a labor of love. An a-ha feels so good! I love coming together as a community to share what we discover through mentor texts. The blog posts start as the inspiration behind the research and the community reacts through comments and discussion to promote learning as they read. Wonderful connections result and people have even come together to study in person outside of our group. The act of challenging yourself to read so many books (approximately 120 in one month) is no small task. But with community support, it makes all the difference.
Now that you possess all this wonderful information about ReFoReMo, I hope you will consider participating. I can’t wait to read the picture books and to see what new things I will learn!
Thank you, Carrie and Kirsti, for taking the time to answer my questions and for all you do to help picture book authors and illustrators.
If you live in Northeast Ohio, you might be interested in the following opportunity offered at the Parma Snow Branch of the Cuyahoga County Library.
Every March, authors Carrie Charley Brown and Kirsti Call lead an online picture book challenge called Reading for Research Month, or ReFoReMo. The goal of the challenge is to encourage writers of all ages to learn from picture books as mentor texts. You are invited to consult and discuss picture books in-person with volunteer Carole Calladine, ReFoReMo fan. Free discussions will take place over our Sunday afternoons: February 25, March 11, March 25, and April 8, from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm at the Parma Snow Library (216-661-4240). For more information on formal ReFoReMo workshops, contact Carrie Charley Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.