I had the greatest day yesterday. I spent the entire day in a school in New Jersey talking to kids. It was part of the school's young authors day, and I had the opportunity to talk to readers from kindergarten straight up to sixth grade about everything from their wishes and dreams, to how to write a book, to whether or not I was rich and famous. It was so much more fun than just doing a signing or a reading, because I had 45 minutes with each grade, and I really got to connect with the kids in a way you don't get to do through a quick smile, photo op, and signature. What I discovered is that there are plenty of eager readers out there, and that we will have a lot of competition in the next few years--these kids really want to be authors.
And they're going to be great authors. Contrary to popular belief, these elementary school kids aren't just into princesses, American Idol, and the Yankees. They wanted to know if the books were printed on recycled paper, and whether or not Katie Kazoo would ever turn into a president during one of her switcheroos and stop the war in Iraq. (If only it were that easy!)
Amazingly enough, some of the fifth and sixth graders had already read my teen books Love & Sk8 and Dawn's Early Light. That was a little frightening, since I'm not sure some of the subject matter's on target for them. Let's just say Angie in Love & Sk8 doesn't have quite the same hobbies as Katie Kazoo, y'know. Still, it was proof that if you can get a kid to love your books from a young age, they're a fan for life.
You guys have to hit the schools as often as you can. Not only will it provide you with plenty of fodder for your future books, it'll give you hope for the future.