A school author visit is not cheap. I get that. I worked in primary schools for over 15 years and I know the pressure on budgets and the effect of cuts and competing demands. But school author visits are worth it. I’m going to try and explain why.
As an author I have visited over 200 schools across the UK and abroad. These include infant schools, primaries and secondaries. In every case I have seen the same things as I watch the children’s faces: a sense of wonder as they hear a story told and then the secrets behind it revealed; looks of amazement as they find out that authors get to do all kinds of things as well as write (e.g. travel, go to festivals, do book signings and maybe appear on TV); the sound of laughter as funny facts and jokes are shared from books; a gentle murmur of aspiration; a desire to read that funny, interesting, gripping book, and more.
The word that sums this up is inspiration. Young people are inspired when they meet an author who knows how grip their imaginations. They are inspired to read and they are inspired to write. They want that book you are holding and they want to find out what happens; they want to create a story like yours; they are excited!
Children meeting an author get insights into how successful poems, stories and factual books are created. They get to ask questions. They get to know where ideas come from and how characters are brought alive. They are let into secrets.
A good author visit is full of great book recommendations, overflowing enthusiasm, brilliant ideas for writing, useful tips, encouragement to keep trying, real-life stories of meeting rejection but not giving up. And exciting true stories of success.
A buzz is created. A whole school can get excited! Even staff are inspired to read and write…
Children get signed books and take them home and read them voraciously. They return to school and talk about them. Parents notice and encourage their kids to keep reading.
Librarians in schools get excited as they get a sudden upsurge in children asking for books and taking them off the shelves.
Children start asking intelligent questions and seriously think about whether they could be a writer. They hear the message that reading for pleasure is the secret and they go home and ask their parents if they can join the public library as the books there are free to borrow – Andy Seed the author said so. They pen letters.
Schools can then build on this and start to create a culture of reading for pleasure. They can do this in the knowledge that a huge body of research evidence proves that young people who read for pleasure not only make substantial academic progress but benefit in so many other important ways.
So that’s what happens. Reluctant readers become readers (not all, but some), negative attitudes are changed and everyone is enthused to engage with books and put pen to paper.
But it’s not cheap. The cost of an author visit reflects many things: the preparation time involved, the expertise, the experience, the professional skill and knowledge that a successful writer can bring into a school. Compared with the cost of IT or CPD, for example, I believe it’s excellent value.
Yes, budget cuts have made it harder than ever to find the money but many schools run dedicated fundraisers. Some work with the PTA, some apply for grants and those planning ahead perhaps use Pupil Premium and target the neediest children. Schools can also halve travelling costs by finding a neighbouring school who would like a visit the following day or halve the total cost by sharing a single day with a nearby school. I am happy to negotiate too and give a discount for two-day visits (which can have an even bigger impact as each age groups gets more author time). There’s more info about visits here, including the cost and here’s a post about how to get more from the day.
One last thing: I’m always booked up ages in advance for World Book Day (and all of that week) so why not go for another time of year – I promise it will be memorable!