CINCINNATI -- Young readers and writers will have a chance to meet author Chris Tebbetts on March 11 at the Mercantile Library, 414 Walnut St., Downtown.
The Saturday events featuring Ohio native Tebbetts, co-author of the popular novel “Middle School: Worst Years of My Life,” are part of the Mercantile Library's continued efforts to attract younger members through diverse programming, including regular yoga sessions, book discussion groups, author talks and concerts. The 182-year-old library saw a 31 percent increase in memberships last year, to the highest enrollment since World War I.
Membership, which starts at $55 a year, includes benefits such as free admission to Signature Series events and the ability to request that the library purchase a book. This winter, the library also asked some members with children for suggestions to build a collection of children's and young adult titles.
“We are sure that reading creates empathy and develops critical thinking. It makes sense to encourage it at every age and ability,” Mercantile Director John Faherty said. “We also know that younger readers become lifelong readers and, maybe, Mercantile Library members.”
Expanding programming to include children and young adults also gives library members with children another excuse to spend time at the Mercantile. In advance of Tebbetts' visit, library members Mary Curran Hackett and Abby Moran, along with their sons, Colm Hackett and Will Moran, talked with the author for the Mercantile's podcast, The 12th Story.
On March 11, Tebbetts will do a reading and book-signing for younger kids in the morning at the Mercantile. In the afternoon, he will teach a writing workshop for teens. Reservations are required for both events. Admission is $15 for nonmembers; parents get in free with their kids.
It'll be Tebbetts' first time at the Mercantile Library, though he grew up not far away, in Yellow Springs. While working in the theater industry in New York City, Tebbetts discovered that storytelling -- particularly writing books for middle grade readers -- was his real passion.
“I've never been a bigger reader than I was from third to sixth grade. I just devoured books at that age,” Tebbetts said. “So it doesn't surprise me that I'm writing for those kids. There's something incredibly charming about kids that age.”
Tebbetts also was an avid TV watcher as a kid, and that, too, informs his writing career. “Reluctant readers -- that's the audience I stumbled into.”
He co-authored the “Middle School” series with best-selling author James Patterson and has written another series, “Stranded,” with “Survivor” host Jeff Probst. The books are quick, fun reads aimed directly at kids, not their parents or teachers. The goal, Tebbetts said, is to get books to kids that they want to read, so reading becomes part of their life.
“That's something I really credit my mom with,” Tebbetts said. “She'd often say, 'There are a zillion books out there. If you don't like what you're reading, put it down and pick up something else.'”
Speaking directly to kids, making it fun, allowing their voices to be heard -- these also are the rules that guide Tebbetts' teen writing workshops.
“You don't want to condescend to them,” Tebbetts said. “If you can get them looking in an upward direction, so to speak, I think the kids really appreciate it, and they learn more.”
Tebbetts' favorite books as a kid were “James and the Giant Peach” and “Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing,” and he still reads a great deal of middle grade and young adult fiction. He recommended “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia and “The Passion of Dolssa” by Julie Berry.
The author is working on his own young adult novel, set to be released in the fall of 2018. Called “The Weakness of Gravity,” the book is set in Ohio.
For more information about Tebbetts' visit to the Mercantile, visit new.MercantileLibrary.com.