“WHAT DO YOU WANT AN AUTHOR TO DO ON A SCHOOL VISIT?”
Well, I taught years ago and asked that question to my classes. The answers always boiled down to the following points…
They wanted to know what the author was like as a child.
Pupils like a backstory and to know more about an author’s life. They enjoyed hearing the similarities and differences to their own lives.
They were keen to discover what motivated an author to write stories.
The children were fascinated by the small triggers. In my case, I wanted to write after reading books in the front room of my children’s home. The stories took me into positive, life-affirming fantasy worlds; polar opposites to my restricted institutionalised situation.
They didn’t just want an author to read extracts from their stories.
An engagement was necessary. The ability to have a conversation about books and reading and stories that matter. They wanted eye contact and empathy.
They wanted to laugh (or cry) and be emotionally moved.
If an author had fun then the children had fun too. They were always keen to ride the emotional rollercoaster of a well-crafted story. From picture book to novel.
They wanted to volunteer. To take part.
Having an author ‘break the wall’ and go among the children – laughing and explaining and interacting – was a powerful thing to see.
They wanted to feast their eyes on visual delights.
It was important for the event to be an EVENT. A bare stage does nothing to motivate or engage the young audience. Props, bunting, posters, drapes, puppets all helped bring an author’s books and characters to life.
They wanted to take a small piece of the author home.
Metaphorically speaking. A memory. A book. A postcard. A kind word. A handshake. A smile.
There were other things too. I will probably blog more on this another time. I’ve been busy preparing for school visits, festivals and other events. It’s important to me that young audiences go away with an eagerness (or renewed appreciation) for books. That we have truly interacted, had fun, talked, questioned, laughed, volunteered, smiled, etc. I won’t get everyone on board all the time but I don’t feel I need to. Reading is a journey with many stops and starts, twists and turns.
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