Kid Reporters

The Magic of Reading

Magic Tree House author Mary Pope Osborne tells TFK about her latest effort to get kids reading 

August 23, 2013
ELENA SEIBERT

Mary Pope Osborne

Recently, I got to interview Mary Pope Osborne, author of the Magic Tree House Series, about her new Soar with Reading partnership with JetBlue Airlines. JetBlue and Osborne, through her Classroom Adventures program, are working together to donate $500,000 worth of books so kids all over the world can discover the magic of reading. Osborne spoke with me about a range of topics, from her love for reading, to e-books, and what she’s working on next. I had a great time interviewing her! Read our Q&A here. You can learn more about the Soar with Reading contest at soarwithreading.com. The deadline to enter is August 31.

Osborne
JETBLUE
Osborne talks to a young reader.

TFK:

What inspired your passion for reading?

MARY POPE OSBORNE:

Ever since I could walk and talk, I loved to live in my imagination. So when I was about six years old and I learned how to read it seemed like a miracle! Because suddenly all I had to do was open a book and I could step into the world of the imagination, even more than just all on my own. So as soon as I could read, I was reading books all the time. And I’ve never stopped.

TFK:

What is your Classroom Adventures program and what made you want to start it?

OSBORNE:

I wanted to start it because ever since I started writing Magic Tree House, around 1991, teachers have been a great help to me. They've given me great advice. They’ve been wonderful supporters of the series. So when we had the 20th anniversary for the series last year, I decided to thank teachers by coming up with a program that they could use in their classrooms. Really, it's my “thank you” to teachers.

TFK:

Where do you see your "Classroom Adventures" program going in the future?

OSBORNE:

I see it growing, and reaching more and more teachers and kids. Especially if teachers view that Magic Tree House makes a difference in their classroom, I think it will continue to grow. I really want to get more and more kids reading by the end of third grade, because that’s a really important time for a kid by then to know how to read. And I think Magic Tree House accomplishes that. It gets kids reading at grade level.

TFK:

What can you tell us about the connection between your Classroom Adventures program and your new Soar with Reading partnership with JetBlue Airlines?

OSBORNE:

My Classroom Adventures program is something I designed to help teachers use Magic Tree House books in the classrooms. It provides lots of free information for any teachers who want to use it. A big part of its purpose is to inspire kids to learn to read. An even bigger purpose it has is to inspire kids to love to read. So they learn to read and hopefully they'll love to read. I discovered that JetBlue Airlines tries to do the same thing with its program called "Soar with Reading," which is a literacy program. We decided to join forces this summer and have a literacy campaign for kids, to get them to learn to read and to love to read.

TFK:

Your "Magic Tree House" series is very popular. How did you come up with the ideas for your books?

OSBORNE:

Kid Reporter
Alaa Osman

In the beginning, before I had written 52 books, kids were giving me great ideas, such as mummies, pirates, ninjas, rain forests, the moon. I would travel to schools all over America, for years and years, and get great ideas from kids of where they wanted Jack and Annie to go. And over time, I tried to do all the great ideas, and I would take votes at bookstore signings, and anywhere I found a group of kids, I’d get their advice. That, plus my own interests. Because I love history, and I love learning about other cultures. I’d bring an idea I had to the kids and get them to see if they liked it. So it’s been a combination.

TFK:

Are Jack and Annie based on any characters or people that you know in real life?

OSBORNE:

Well, Jack’s based a bit on a friend of ours who’s a professor who has a great curiosity. His name is Jack, and he acts a bit like Jack. So that was an inspiration. And Annie is just more a character I wish I had been. I wasn’t nearly as brave as Annie when I was little. I wish I had been. I’m more like Jack than I am Annie. So I’d say she was my hero and Jack was more my real self. 

TFK:

What are some ways your local library can make reading more exciting for kids?

OSBORNE:

I know a lot of libraries have had reading clubs for different ages, where kids get together once a week and discuss a book they’re reading together or share their ideas. I’ve heard about a lot of Magic Tree House reading clubs that way. I love it when libraries help put together reading buddies so that a senior citizen, a retired person, can read to a younger child and help them with their reading. I think that any kind of story hour is helpful for the youngest kids so that they understand the excitement of books. Libraries are very important. We really have to cherish our libraries around the country. That's why I made Morgan le Fay [a character in the Magic Tree House books] an enchanted librarian.

TFK:

What can people do to inspire children to love reading?

OSBORNE:

The first thing people can do is to read with a child, read to a child, read a page and let a child read a page, or let the child just read to them. Talk about a book, and show your children how you love to read and what books do for you. Tell them about the books you're reading, and go to the library. Go to bookstores and look at books. And appreciate them. And realize how amazing and magical they are.

TFK:

What can you tell us about any new books you have coming up or are planning to write?

OSBORNE:

The newest book to come out, I think it's just a couple of weeks out, it's called Hurry Up, Houdini. Jack and Annie meet the famous magician Houdini, and they put on their own magic show. The nonfiction Fact Tracker that goes with that book is called Magic Tricks from the Tree House. My sister Natalie Pope Boyce who writes those books shares with children 50 magic tricks that they can do themselves. So it's a lot of fun. The next two books we're doing, I’m doing a book called High Time for Heroes, which will come out in the winter, and Jack and Annie meet the famous nurse Florence Nightingale. And Natalie's book, her nonfiction Fact Tracker, will be called Heroes of All Time, which will be all kinds of famous people such as Martin Luther Jr. King and Harriet Tubman, and people who’ve really given a lot to the world.

TFK:

How do you believe e-books contribute to the future of reading?

OSBORNE:

I think that e-books, from what I hear, they've not caused people to read less. If anything, people are reading more now. They have more opportunities to read. I’m very happy to use an e-reader when I'm on a plane. Or when I feel like I can't live another five minutes without a certain book, and I have to order it immediately. But I'm never happier then when I'm reading a real book with a real cover, and real pages. I love looking at all the real books on my bookshelves. They’re like my friends. My feeling is that a lot of people feel the way I do, including children. So I think we'll have e-readers but we'll also always have books.


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