My Very Own Library Author Spotlight: Diana López

International literacy program brings noted authors to local public schools.

It’s not every day that a child has the opportunity to visit with the authors of some of the most popular kids’ books. In partnership with Scholastic and My Very Own Library (MVOL), United Way of Greater Kansas City has made that meeting possible in several Kansas City-area public schools.  

In addition to providing kids in lower-income areas of the city with free books from Scholastic Book Fairs, the MVOL program offers school visits from award-winning children’s book authors. This week, author Diana López went to Longfellow Elementary and Rogers Elementary to discuss her latest title, Lucky Luna. During the visit, López talked about the importance of reading and she personally autographed and distributed more than 100 copies of her book to participating students.

“The best moments happen when a child has read one of my books and has a good question. I’ve been so impressed by some of the questions that have come my way,” said López. “Another great moment happens when someone comes to me and says, ‘My last name is Ramos or Flores or Garza,’ any name from characters in my books. They are seeing themselves, which is a big part of my mission — writing books that reflect the diverse experiences of our young people.”

López’s first book, Sofia’s Saints, was not for kids; as time went on, however, she couldn’t help but be drawn to writing for young people. As a former middle school teacher of 10 years, López credits her inspiration to her former students as well as a desire to close a diversity gap she saw in children’s literature.

“I kept thinking of my students in San Antonio. The student population at my school was 96% Hispanic, and I really struggled to find culturally relevant books that they could relate to, that went beyond showing Mexican Americans as migrant workers or gangbangers,” López said.  “I realized that I have a good ear for the middle-grade voice. I give all the credit to my former students and the 10 years I spent reading their journals. They are so funny, intelligent, embarrassed. I love the intensity with which they feel. They also ask questions — questions that adults stopped asking because we’ve come to accept things.” 

While her former students are all now grown, López said when she writes, she does so with them in mind.

“I thank them for supplying my imagination with so many story ideas, but most especially, for lending me their voices.”