Be a Bridge: An Interview with Authors Irene Latham and Charles Waters

Inclusivity, respect, and connection: these are the keys to a positive environment and healthy relationships. The brand new picture book Be a Bridge uses upbeat rhyming verse and colorful illustrations of a diverse group of students to help bring young readers together.

Acclaimed authors Irene Latham and Charles Waters use this book to bring key themes from their earlier collaborations (Can I Touch Your Hair? and Dictionary for a Better World) to a young audience. Today they join us on the Lerner blog to reveal their inspiration and experiences working together. Read on to find out more!

What was your inspiration for the book?

This book started with two pairs of rainbow shoelaces, thanks to the first book we wrote together: Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship. Whenever we visited schools for that book, we wore our rainbow shoelaces just like the characters. Sometimes we’d discover students at these schools were wearing rainbow shoelaces too! It was important to us to write a book extending the same themes in Can I Touch Your Hair? but for a younger audience. 

You’ve collaborated before. How was this experience different?

The previous books we’ve written together are much longer than this one. So, it was a challenge, and a tough and delightful one at that, to create a story using so few words. When it comes to writing picture books—to paraphrase Jane Yolen —every word counts.

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing the book?

How when you find the right “hook” or “handle”—in this case the bridge metaphor—the story becomes more clear and unfolds at a more accelerated pace.  

The back matter includes additional activities and books for parents and educators to use when sharing this book. Tell us some of your favorites, and share how you envision the reading experience.

We envision families and classrooms sharing this book together as a read-aloud to open rich discussions about how we can all be bridges. We hope the activities in the back matter like the compliment chain, the Be a Bridge pledge, and the recommended books help make this book a life-changing, character-building event. And we’d kind of love it if readers decided to join us in wearing rainbow shoelaces!

What do you hope readers will learn or discover from reading your book?

We hope readers will carry the “be a bridge” message into their everyday lives—and imagine even more ways to be a bridge! Together we can make the world a better place.

Praise for Be a Bridge

“A charming and welcome read bound to help cultivate a kinder next generation.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Latham and Waters reteam for this rhyming exploration of how children can learn to be a “bridge,” building key connections through kindness.”—Publishers Weekly

Connect with the authors

Charles Waters is a children’s poet, actor, and author. Charles conducts poetry performance workshops for elementary and middle school audiences across the nation. He lives in Georgia.

Irene Latham is the author of more than a dozen works of poetry, fiction, and picture books, including Can I Touch Your Hair? (co-written with Charles Waters). She lives in Alabama with her family.

For more from our awesome authors and illustrators click here!

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