How to harness the potential in author visits?

Step 1: Have you found the author you want and agreed a date? Great. Now agree details with them on number of sessions, the classes they would visit. Tell them a bit about why you want them to visit and what would benefit your school.

 

Step 2: At least a month before the author visit, reach out to the author and ask for what activities the class could do before they come. Here are some ideas:

  1. Read the books of the author
  2. Discuss the topics across the curriculum
  3. Inform all teachers, and librarians of the teacher’s visit
  4. Tell the parents about the upcoming visit and encourage them to go to their local libraries and borrow the books.

If the author shares their personalised activities, lesson plans try them out in your classes. For example, I have a website full of activities for my books.

Step 3: Two weeks before the author visit, either for the whole school or for your individual class, set up committees.

  • A welcome committee – two students who are shy and need support to welcome the author on arrival and thank the author when they leave.
  • A research committee – an ICT project team that will find out more about the author from their website and other safe sources.
  • An art committee – a group of children who will either create posters, cards or music (or find songs) to match the books of the author.
  • Logistics committee – a group that’s responsible for author’s lunch, water and other organising
  • Book sales committee – a group that will design and create an order form, agree to man the till and create a sales list when done.
  • Assembly committee – this could be the group of people who normally look after the projector and the assembly computers etc who will assist the author on the day.

Remember the children are improving their literacy, maths, arts and research skills all the while being proud of their committee membership.

Step 4: Order the author’s books for your school library so they arrive before the author arrives. Make sure your librarian is fully aware of the author visit and is part of your organising committee.

 

Step 5: Are you arranging book sales? Do you know how it will happen? If you’re unsure of this, talk to the author. Many will sell their own books and others would refer you to a local indie bookshop. Bookshops work closely with schools to deliver books to the school and take them back after the sales. Click here to find out if there’s a bookseller local to you.

Step 6: Inform parents a week before the author visit. If your school has a website or newsletter, announce it there. Make sure the order forms have reached the parents.

Step 7: Remind the children and parents the night before the author visit and create a buzz. Get the children to prepare questions for the author. Remember, many authors already have a lot of info o

n their website. Encourage the children to ask something different. Authors love it when they have to think about the answer.

Step 8: On the day, do show the author where the toilets are, staff-room is and how they could make a cup of tea. If you’re providing lunch, explain to the author how that will work and who will be their escort.

Step 9: During the assembly and workshops, be present and engaged. Don’t cut into the author’s time or interrupt them for disciplining the children often. If the children are motivated through the above steps, they would be listening to every word the author utters.

Remember to get your library books signed too. Authors would gladly do so even in their lunch hour or as they wait for children to buy books.

Arranging an author visit is a lot of work. The trick is to delegate much of the preparation to the children, thereby empowering them to be leaders, managers, public speakers and volunteers. Spread the responsibility across all classes and ask for help from other teachers, TAs and even your PTA.

 

 

An author visit can bring enormous value not just in reading for pleasure, but in so many ways if you harness its full potential.

A new term will start soon and I wish you and your children many author visits in this brand new year. If you want to find out more about my author visits, please click here.

 

 

 

 

A Month in a Writer’s Life

The last month has been hectic for so many reasons. Through March I was still doing school visits as part of the World Book Day celebrations which have started to extend into the month.

Through snow and rain, I’ve been to 11 schools during March and April, to meet with children to work with them on storytelling and creative writing. It’s always a joy to meet children who have read my books, and my website and have interesting questions to ask.

 

All school events are different – in some the classes are small and in some I talk to a whole year group or key stage. This year I had the opportunity to talk to children about both my picture books and stories from my chapter books.

I visited West Earlham Junior too, where I’m the patron of reading and we wrote poems and riddles in each class and the children enjoyed their time making what would be on their imaginary’s teacher’s table.

Alongside the school events, I was also at the Bexley Half-term festivals to tell stories at the Bexley libraries, which was super fun because I  met a lot of parents and their young children who had come to listen to Farmer Falgu stories.

The summer term is here now and I’ll be visiting more schools. I’ll be at more schools across England and Wales in May and June. I’ll also be doing public events in the summer. You can find out more about my events here.

But here’s the conundrum of an author and a writer who writes stories for children. I love meeting my readers and I go into schools and libraries just to do that. So when do I write my next stories? Every week I set aside time to write, whether it’s the weekend or early mornings before I head out – so that I’ll be writing new stories all the time. Find out more about my new books here.

So that’s a wrap so far. More exciting news to follow. If you’re not already subscribing to this blog, please do so you can get all of these news before anyone else.

Looking Back at 2017

2017 has been brilliantly busy. I

  • learnt to dance Salsa a little bit, still learning,
  • started to learn photography,
  • finished my Masters,
  • rode a horse
  • lost weight
  • visited California, Spain and Rome.
It was a year of the Great Bucket List.

Notwithstanding the political and natural disasters this year that we all suffered through, on a personal basis, I met many wonderful new people, reconnected with old friends, met children in classrooms and bookshops across the UK and US and wrote a lot of new stories.

Professionally I had multiple milestones this year – I met my agent and they signed me on. I finished my MA in Writing for Children, albeit with a lot of tears, nail-biting trauma, and a lot of drama.

Pattan’s Pumpkin got brilliant reviews in America and got included in the Read Across America calendar for October. A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Justice has been shortlisted for the Surrey Libraries Children’s Book Award and Farmer Falgu makes new strides in Germany.

Sometimes it felt like I was shuttling between things, or living in train stations and lounging in airport lobbies, but I managed to combine book tours with holidays, squeezed time out of every day and night and I’m still here, unscathed, a little wiser, a lot more childish (I seem to grow down than grow up) and I can’t wait to find out what 2018 will bring.

Thank you to everyone of you who came to my events, talked me through a bad draft of the novel, gave me advice, encouragement and support. Thank you to every teacher, librarian, PTA organiser, parent and literacy activists who brought diverse books into children’s hands. Thank you to all my family who hardly saw me this year as I breezed in and out of family gatherings and celebrations.

I thought just a couple of photos looking back wouldn’t do. So here is a quick recap of the year.

https://youtu.be/cDxoVsYKH7g

Good News Galore!

I’ve been slow in blogging the last few months due to really hectic schedule. I finished an MA in Writing for Young People, travelled to Rome and wrote a few picture books in  between all that.

So what’s the good news then? Where should I start? As it’s October and Pumpkin season, I’ll start there.

Pattan’s Pumpkin has been making waves here in the UK and in the US of A.

Closer home, CLPE has chosen Pattan’s Pumpkin to be one of the texts for their Power of Reading programme. This is so brilliant because so many more schools and children will get to read a story from a corner of India. And enjoy the illustrations of Frané Lessac.

 

In the States, Pattan’s Pumpkin has been chosen as a book to Read Across America in October. Find out more here along with wonderful resources created by Reading is Fundamental. Check out their awesome calendar too.


I’m so happy to share the good news that Lantana Publishing will be publishing my next picture book You’re Safe With Me (illustrated by Poonam Mistry) in April 2018. Here is a sneak peak into the cover! The book has been making waves already and I’ll share the good news when I’m allowed to tell. Shh!



And finally, I’m doing a number of events in the UK and in the US over the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for me in your neighbourhood. Check out the details here.

An Irreverent Guide for Patrons of Reading

Originally published on http://www.patronofreading.co.uk/


Don’t worry! This guide will not be serious. This guide is neither full of practical tips nor some amazing ideas. It’s just another writer, avoiding the work-in-progress, hoping to rescue thousands of children from forced learning of subjunctive clauses and modal verbs.

Patron of Reading is a bonkers idea from the three musketeers – Tim Redgrave, Jon Biddle and Helena Pielichaty. And more crazy people like authors, illustrators, school teachers, head-teachers and librarians joined up and made this bonkers idea more brilliant. Who would have thought reading for pleasure was a thing? DoE haven’t heard of it, it seems! But we don’t worry much about them when we have wonderful characters and amazing facts in so many books.

To me, being a Patron of Reading is an adventure. By adventure I mean, I have no idea what I’ve got myself into and I figure out as I go, guided by the children and the teachers who have invited me in.

So how does this adventure start? Like all adventures, it starts with a tall man with a big heart and almost no hair. He checks you out with his twitter thermometer and measures your ability to read for pleasure. You write children’s books? Then don’t worry – most probably you’re already afflicted with this condition.

Then you get listed on the Patron of Reading website. Think Match.com except for matching hibernating authors with super-humans like librarians and teachers. Like in any dating profile, just reveal enough of your reading for pleasure tendencies and the general neighbourhood where this affliction affects you – and I mean more than your own room – like a city where people live and schools are run. (At least for now; if you don’t vote, who knows, all parents might have to home-school compulsorily).

See what I did there!

Then the tall man with a big heart tweets out your patron profile to a legion of followers who re-tweet it as if these are cute cat pictures until an eager school spots you and goes Aha! We’ve would like that one please – yes that author with the yellow shirt, long hair, standing next to a stack of books and a pile of laundry. Is that you? Then you’ve been matched.

Once you’re matched, the above-mentioned tall man will approach you with details of your suitor. Where is the school? Who will be in touch with you? Who is this teacher who on top of everything they do, has agreed to be the Patron of Reading coordinator.

Like in any self-respecting matching situation, you get to talk (and by talk I mean, by email or phone or Skype or telepathy, whatever suits) with the potential school you will be patronising.

 

Here is the thing – this is where you reveal your reading habits – poetry? Ghost stories? Adventures set in abandoned islands? Don’t be shy. You’d be surprised when you listen to their choices.

This is where you find out what does your potential suitor want? What kind of school is it? What motivates the children? Why did they choose you? What could you bring to the table (other than a chair of course)?

You have questions? You are too shy to ask your potential suitor? Shoot it across to the matchmaker. He has weathered every what, why and when.

One too many?

Well – what do you think? Have you agreed the terms and conditions of patronising? Do you have a date setup? Ooh! That’s exciting, isn’t it?

Hold fire! Don’t relax yet. Plan the first visit as you would plan any school visit – except you’re not going to be running creative writing workshops. You’re going to find ways to promote reading for pleasure. The keyword as you might have noticed is PLEASURE!

Like in any first date, take it slow. Don’t overwhelm the school with your enthusiasm. I’ve been there! Both in life and in schools. Figure out what they need from you and in what levels of enthusiasm. You might have time between two book projects and want to run a competition for the children. (Or you just want to procrastinate). Teachers as you might have guessed from teachtwitter, are an overworked bunch. They might not have time to jump into every rabbit-hole the patron wants to. So KEEP CALM and READ FOR PLEASURE.

Then agree frequency of visits. Ask them how they would like to stay in touch when you’ve returned to your cave after inspiring them with the love of reading. Maybe they would want to, maybe they won’t. Maybe the things you initiated on the first visit doesn’t fully pan out. Don’t fret. You get to go back, build relationships and try new things.

That’s it – there is no secret handshake (well, I’m not telling you, if there’s one), there is no heavy manual in all European languages (Brexit means Brexit, didn’t you know?)

And there are no set rules about how you patronise reading. Standing up, sitting down, upside down, reading poetry, non-fiction, stories, picture books, newspapers and cereal boxes – it’s all up for grabs.

Willing to take the plunge? Reach out to the tall man with a big heart (also called @jonnybid) and leave the rest to the universe.


Chitra Soundar is a Patron of Reading at West Earlham Junior School in Norwich, where she brings stories from different countries into the classrooms. She gets on their radio show, teaches them voice modulation and tells them stories from brilliant books. And when she’s not patronising, this is what she’s up to. Find out more here. Have questions, shoot her a tweet at @csoundar.