Research the Author
Start with the basics: the author's website and any autobiographical material, interviews, and speeches. From there, students can look at a wide variety of resources, including books about children's authors, encyclopedias, and online databases and directories.
The biggest problem you and your students may face is the overload of information available about authors, both in print and online. This is a good time to have students do a class on research skills and information literacy in the media center. The librarian can help you by showing students how and where to find credible information about an author and how to properly source their research and not plagiarize.
When researching authors, it can be especially interesting to see how they have integrated their own life and experiences into their books. Remind students to look out for these connections and record them in their journals.
It's always good to begin with basics, so check to see what the author has written about his/herself. Has he/she written an autobiography? Do they have a website? If they have won a major award (e.g., Caldecott or Newbery Medal), check The Horn Book, which annually publishes authors' acceptance speeches. While you'll want your students to gather further perspective from outside sources, getting an author's own insights into his/her life is a great place to start.
Now it's time to check with other basic sources of information. These include: biographies of the author; encyclopedias (both in print and online); and other online resources such as Teaching Books. In addition, check Children's Books and Their Creators by Anita Silvey, which has alphabetically listed entries on hundreds of authors as well as websites maintained by publishers.
Browse our Author Study Resources section for many other sources of information.
If students have access to databases that include newspaper and magazine articles, that's also a good source of information. Students also could check Google News to see if there have been any recent articles written about the author. Teachers can check education journal databases to find articles about authors in professional journals like The Reading Teacher, Language Arts or the Journal of Children's Literature.
Don't forget to look at our library of video interviews with well-known authors and illustrators: