Author visits to schools

Meeting a real live author can increase children's interest in books, help them understand how books are produced and boost the confidence of any aspiring writers in your school. All our more general advice about booking an author applies to school visits, but here are some more specific hints and tips.

Timing the visit

World Book Day is an obvious time to have an author visit, so demand is particularly high around that date (usually the first Thursday in March). As a result, you need to book early for World Book Day events or your choice of author will be very limited. If you have set your heart on one particular author, you'll have more chance of booking them if you are flexible about dates.
Maudie Smith

Preparing for the visit

The children will probably enjoy the visit more if they have read some of the author's work. However, a talk can sometimes work better if they haven't read one particular book. This is especially likely if an author is going to describe the development of one picture book from original idea to finished project, ending with reading the story. So it's a good idea to check with an author before you decide which of their books to read in class as preparation.

If you or the author will be selling books on the day, send out letters to parents so that children can bring sufficient money into school on the day. If you can cope with the organisation involved, you may wish to take orders in advance.

The visit is likely to produce a surge of interest in the author's books, so make sure your library is prepared. It may be sensible to invest in a few extra copies.

The arrival of someone even remotely well-known tends to produce a stampede for autographs. To save disappointing your children, it's a good idea to talk about this issue with the author in advance. Some authors are willing to sign anything (which takes time), some bring signed bookmarks or postcards with them and some prefer not to sign autographs at all.

Check with the author about what equipment they will need during the talk. If they are running a workshop, you'll also need to know what equipment the children will need.

On the day

Make sure the office staff know about the visit and who to contact when the author arrives. A staffroom can be a lonely place for a visitor. Try to organise someone to keep them company, make sure they have something to drink and find the toilet.

Organise someone to show the author to the relevant rooms and back to the staff room afterwards. An unfamiliar school is a very difficult place to navigate.

Arrange for the usual teachers to be present during the talk to control behaviour. It sets a good example if they actually listen, rather than mark books.

If the author is giving a workshop, make sure that the children have all the necessary materials available and that the room is arranged in a suitable way for the planned activities.

Kevin Graal

Follow-up activities

If the author gives you an invoice, pass it on to the appropriate people as soon as possible.

A brief thank you note is always welcome. Multiple letters from all the children make a useful writing activity and are fun to receive. But they are definitely not compulsory.

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