Hosting an Author in the Classroom
Hosting an author in the classroom is a real treat for students, staff and even parent volunteers. Many of today’s bestselling British children’s authors are available to visit classrooms in the UK, the hard part is actually booking the author upon whom you have your heart set - many of them book up well in advance. To that end, when you decide you’d like to host an author in the classroom develop a short list of those you’d like to invite, decide what you’d like the author to do for/with the class and when you’re ready, make contact with the authors one by one. Then don’t forget to enlist the aid of others to work as volunteers on the day and prepare the class for such a special visit.
Develop An Author ShortlistIf you like the idea of having an author visit the classroom, think about why:
- Would you like it to be an author of a book the class has just read together?
- Are you interested in any author who might spark the children’s desire to read?
- Will you use the visit to correspond with a larger literacy event in the school?
- Does it even have to be an author? Would a poet or illustrator work for your visit?
Once you understand why you want an author to visit the classroom come up with a shortlist of those who would work best with your class and develop the schedule for the visit based on this list.
Decide On Author ActivitiesNow that you know which authors you’d like to visit the class, and why, you must decide what you’d like the author to do with the class.
- Do you want him or her to talk about writing and books?
- Do you want the class to have an informal discussion with the author?
- Would you like the author to discuss the book your class has just read?
- Would you like the author to do a reading followed by questions and answers?
The more you know about what you’d like the author to do, the better pitch you can make when attempting to book an author for a class visit.
Make Contact with the AuthorContacting an author can be as simple as logging on to his or her website and searching for a section related to school visits or simply using a contact form to get in touch and ask your questions. A lot of authors prefer these requests be made through organisations with which they are associated though. Apples and Snakes, National Association of Writers In Education (NAWE) and Speaking of Books are just three such organisations which help arrange classroom visits for authors. The Wordpool website also hosts a list of UK children’s authors who are available for classroom visits, but this list is not necessarily the most up to date.
Enlist the Aid of VolunteersAny author’s visit runs more smoothly when there are multiple volunteers involved to help the teacher on the day. Parents, older siblings of students, other teachers, the school librarian and other school staff are all obvious choices for volunteers. Whoever you choose, consider who would work best to be greeters, who could help the author tour the school, who could be in charge of setting up and cleaning up, who could oversee refreshments and who will help keep enthusiastic students under control and remind them of their best behaviour. The number of volunteers needed will no doubt vary by class, but the basic roles will remain the same.
Prepare the Class for the VisitOnce you have sorted the logistics of your author visit, prepare the class for what will be expected of them before, during and after the event. Reading the author’s books, writing book reports, creating artwork associated with the book, being on their best behaviour during the visit, preparing questions for the author, saying thank you and helping to give the author a goodbye gift, writing thank you cards and talking about the visit (what worked, what didn’t work, what was enjoyable, what was boring) are all tasks appropriate for students who are lucky enough to have an author visit their classrooms.
Hosting an author in the classroom is a memorable event for all involved. To make sure your author visit is a success, develop an author shortlist, decide on desired author activities, make contact with the author, organise adult volunteers on the day and prepare the class for the visit. After that all you can do is cross your fingers and hope for the best!