A teacher recently asked me, ‘What’s the best way for schools to prepare for an author visit?’ That’s a really really smart question because good preparation can make a huge difference to what can be achieved when inviting an author into your school. It can be the difference between children getting hooked into reading or not. It can turn an interesting day into an inspirational day. So here are my tips.
1. Make sure that everyone knows an author is visiting
Build up excitement before the day by telling the children that the school is going to have a special visitor. Ensure the younger children know what an author is. All this will have much more impact if you can show the children some of the author’s books, so…
2. Get hold of some of the author’s books
2-3 weeks before the visit buy or borrow some copies of the author’s best-known titles. Get to know what they’re about. Share the books around school and ask teachers to read short excerpts to their classes (or long ones). It’s all about whetting the appetite!
3. Visit the author’s website with the children
Browse the pages together. Find a photo of the author and images of his or her book covers, discussing what the books might be about. Discover some facts, speculate on what he/she might be like and then ask the children to write down some questions they would like to ask.
4. Put up posters
If you want the visit to create an excitement about books and would like to use it as a springboard to get children reading for pleasure then arrange a book signing with the author on the day and advertise this via posters, letters to parents and social media. Children who meet an author will often be inspired to read so what is better than encouraging them to buy a signed book which they can start reading right away? A reminder to bring money the day before will help.
5. Buy some copies for the school library.
Of course authors understand that there are many families who cannot easily afford books (and indeed many parents, sadly, who don’t see the need to encourage reading). On my visits I leave behind free copies for the school library but I do think that schools should invest in extra copies to ensure that more kids can access the books. The visit has created an excitement about reading, so exploit it!
Of course there are many other things that schools can do but these are the basics that will ensure you get the most out of a visit.