Meet Irene Latham: #WinterRead2022 Author Spotlight

Masthead Waves

Welcome to our #WinterRead2022 "Read for a Better World" Author Spotlight Series! We’re thrilled to be featuring 6 incredibly talented authors from our 2022 sponsor Lerner Publishing Group as a part of our 5th Annual Winter Reading Challenge. This week, we’ve interviewed Irene Latham, author of many children’s novels, poetry, and picture books. 


Together with Charles Waters she's written Dictionary for a Better World and Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship, which was named a Charlotte Huck Honor book and a Kirkus Best Book of 2018. Check out our interview with her below, and learn more about her work here. Follow her on social media on Instagram and Twitter



What are you currently reading?

Pax: Journey Home by Sara Pennypacker. 


Where is your favorite place to read?

In bed! I leave my husband to his TV shows an hour before bedtime each night and curl up with a book. 


What is your favorite thing you've written? Book or otherwise!

My favorite is pretty much always what I'm currently working just can't beat the joy and passion of that prime creative time. Though I do think often of this closing phrase I wrote in a letter to my parents while I was 10 and away at summer camp: "With love from your kindly-built daughter." I love it because I want to BE it. Those words inspire me.


What’s your favorite book by someone other than yourself?

I can't possibly answer this question! But one abiding lifetime book-friend is The Prophet by Khalil Gibran.


What is your favorite word and why?

“YES.” Because the whole world lives in that word. Anything is possible!



How does reading help us create a better world?

Reading SHOWS us the world. It creates compassion, empathy and wonder. Stories reveal who we are and who we CAN be. And books save lives. I was a shy kid who moved around A LOT. What I carried with me were books. They never let me down. I could always count on them and the comfort they would bring. If you can find friendship in a book, imagine what you can give the world!


When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? And/or how did you become a writer?

Family legend says I was writing love poems—to my mom—as soon as I could read and write. She still has a box full of them.


If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

Keep writing. That's what the world needs most from you.



How does your work encourage conversations around diversity, inclusion, or other social and emotional concepts with parents, educators, and young readers?

Perhaps because of the time I lived overseas as a child, or my life as part of a family who took in foster children, or my degrees in social work, or being a mom to three sons, or just being a human, many of my books focus on these themes, some more directly than others. Dictionary for a BetterWorld: Poems, Quotes, & Anecdotes which I co-wrote with Charles Waters features words like “belonging,” “empathy,” “equality,” and “respect,” and offers multiple ways to engage with these concepts, including a "Try It" suggestion for readers to carry the word into their everyday lives.


Any additional information or fun facts?

I'm left-handed, a middle child, live on a lake, play cello, and love shopping in thrift stores. Thanks so much for having me! Happy reading!!

Stay tuned for future Lerner author spotlights throughout #WinterRead2022, and encourage your community to keep reading! 

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