The magic of Inspiration
I count myself very lucky. I have seen many, many author and illustrator events, from being a teacher organising them at my school, visiting book festivals with my daughter, at Reading Rocks conferences for teachers, taking authors/illustrators to schools as an independent bookseller to hosting tonnes of virtual events with authors/illustrators and thousands of pupils around the country. I did say I was lucky!!! And without fail, every time, I’m inspired and I see many, many pupils inspired, too. I see it in their engagement, their faces, their questions, that they get the book and read, and in the great follow up writing and drawing they do.
“One of our youngest reading ambassadors posed a question to an author and her question was answered- it made her day!”
Virtual Author Event Subscriber School
“We drew some great squirrels with Fiona Barker, the class didn’t want the talk to end!“
Virtual Author Event Subscriber School
What the research says about author events
Now I’ve shouted out about the power of author events for a long time but in these times of underfunding I get why some schools just can’t make them happen. So I was delighted when the Literacy Trust recently shared their research into the link between author events and pupil engagement in reading and writing:
“While we cannot conclude that author visits cause these positive literacy outcomes, the findings suggest a clear link between author visits and increased reading and writing engagement. This link was particularly prevalent for children and young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, indicating the importance of providing these opportunities to pupils in schools.”
While events on their own are not the magic panacea for getting all pupils to read and write for pleasure (sorry folks: this doesn’t exist!) they are definitely a powerful tool in your reading for pleasure strategy and are worth using budget for.
Getting the most out of an author visit
Now when you spend on an event, which will cost in the region of £300-500+ for a full day in-person, you need to be sure to get the best value for money and much of that is down to you as the school, not the visitor.
Before the author visit
So how can you do that? First of all, be clear and organised about the day with your guest. Know timings and expectations so all are clear about what you want to get out of the day. And here remember, authors/illustrators are not supply teachers. They aren’t at school to teach a lesson. Be clear that the main focus is engagement, aspiration and inspiration.
Then the route to a great event is in the build up. Have copies of the book(s) to share so pupils know who is coming and what to expect. Think about little mentions each day for the week or two before to really build that sense of anticipation and excitement. You could pop up a few posters, mention it on the newsletter and work with pupils on questions they might like to ask.
Hook up with your local bookseller (if you don’t have one or they aren’t able to help – we are happy to supply books) so pupils can ride the day’s enthusiasm and get signed copies on the day. Some authors/illustrators will have links with bookshops already. Often independent booksellers can offer pupils an event discount (we certainly do!) to make it a little more affordable.
On the day of the author visit
On the day, be sure to save a car park space for your guest or make sure they know how to get to you via taxi/public transport. Definitely offer them a drink when they arrive and show them where the bathroom is. They will likely have travelled a bit and need a minute before being in front of pupils. These little things can make your guest feel welcome and ready for a great day. It’s a kind gesture to offer your guest lunch and make sure they have somewhere to have a break.
During the event sessions, all adults in the room should be modelling engagement. Please oh please don’t do marking at the back. It’s an implicit message that the session isn’t worth engaging in. Instead, watch, respond appropriately and model questions.
Making author events budget friendly
Here at Reading Rocks, I am ever conscious of budgets and budget constraints in schools (oh boy do I get it: I’ve been SLT and now I’m a school governor!). Yet I also believe firmly that authors deserve an appropriate fee for their time. So I will never advocate asking authors to come in for no fee. So how can you get these drops of magic in an affordable way???
How we help
Well, that’s why I came up with our innovative virtual author event subscription. It’s very, very affordable AND authors are paid fairly too!!! AND it’s not just one event, you get loads throughout the year for each primary phase. This really supports your Reading for Pleasure culture as it’s not a one off, it’s just something you do at your school.
One school described the Virtual Author Event Subscription as “Engaging, Inspiring, Rockin’!”
Another said “A great choice of authors, wonderful interactive sessions and easy to sign up.”
Your local independents
It’s also a good idea to make friends with your local independent bookshop as they may be able to bring authors to your school when they are on promotional tours.