Once in a while, I’ll throw out a question to my author pals on Facebook, and I’m always amazed by their generous responses. Recently, I asked, “Authors and illustrators: What have schools done to knock your socks off when you visit? From the simple to the sublime, I’m interested to share with our schools and for a possible PW post.” Well, the replies poured in, and there are so many great anecdotes and tips for schools that I could not deprive ShelfTalker readers.
The responses fell into a few major categories: preparation, creativity, and thoughtful attention to the small details.
James Preller: My go-to line is that authors don’t do school visits, schools do author visits. An important distinction. It is the small details that matter most. I am always happiest when students and teachers have spent time with the books. Like everything else in life, the more they put into it, the more they get out of it.
Kate Messner: My best visits – both in-person and virtual visits – have happened at schools where kids are immersed in reading the books and creating related art of all kinds on their own. I’ve visited a number of schools where students made welcome signs & hosted a talk-show type interview for the school wide PA system: http://www.katemessner.com/thank-you-freeman-kennedy-school/
All-school reads make for really amazing author visits, too – I liked the twist on this that Melissa Guerrette & her school came up with. Instead of choosing one-book-one-school, they did a one-author-one-school project so that younger kids read my Ranger in Time chapter book and older grades read Capture the Flag. Melissa also did extensive, detailed blog posts about this so it’s a great model for other schools to follow: http://melissaguerrette.blogspot.com/2015/01/oes-reads-week-1.html
Jan Carr: In one school, the class had read all my picture books, and had discussions before I arrived about what the commonalities of the various books were, though on the surface the books were very different. The keen-eyed kids had noticed threads that ran through – in language, characters, structure, themes, etc. So when I arrived and we talked about process, they were VERY tuned in and got so much more out of it. I agree with James Preller, that schools get out of it what they put in in preparation beforehand. Familiarity with the books is key.
Deborah Underwood: One school stands out because it was supremely organized, and clearly Author Day was a big deal to everyone there. There was a school-wide poster contest, and they even decorated the teachers’ lunch room for our lunch – tons of stuffed animals everywhere because of the animal nonfiction I’d written. After lunch, I was escorted to the library to sign, and class by class, the kids who had purchased books were escorted to the library. Each kid got a cookie, and there were chairs set up for them to sit in while they waited. So there was no signing chaos, and I got a chance to talk with each kid individually.
I also loved that visit because it was near where my dad lives, so he came along. Two of the kids asked him to sign their books.