Five Thoughts on Author Visits

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of author visits. The students at Parma Elementary have had quite the year. We’ve been blessed to have a few authors visit our school and we hosted Nerd Camp Junior last summer.

Here are a handful thoughts that I have on author visits.

1. Kids Read Author Visit Books Long After the Author Leaves

Andy Griffiths visited my school last spring. Chances are if you visited my classroom you’d find his books in a handful of students’ seat sacks (we don’t have desks). I don’t think that it would come to a surprise to anyone that after an author visit kids would be reading the books by the author, but we are 6+ months and a whole school year later, and kids are still devouring books by the authors that visited our school last year. My first grade daughter carries around her copy of The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow like it is made of gold.

Authors are rock stars. #nerdybookclub

A photo posted by Colby Sharp (@colbysharp) on Sep 9, 2014 at 4:31pm PDT

2. Kids Write More

Another no brainer, but I’ve found that when my students meet authors they write more. They take the advice that authors spew and try to put it in their own writing. I can teach my kids revision until the cows come home, and they are still hesitant. Linda Urban or Janet Tasjhian can talk revision and the kids are all about it.

. @AaronZenz is amazing with kids. #nerdcampmi

A photo posted by Colby Sharp (@colbysharp) on Jul 7, 2014 at 2:53pm PDT

3. They Want More Authors to Visit

If you bring authors to your school, your students will want you to bring more authors to your school. My students are always asking me when their favorite author is going to visit. “Hey, Mr. Sharp! Do you think we could get that Amulet author to visit Parma later this year? What about Kate DiCamillo? I think she’d really like Parma.” This is a good problem to have. I like that my students see authors as people that would enjoy hanging out with us.

4. Students Take Pride in Their School

Hosting an author is a full time job. I’m sure you’ve seen some of Mr. Schu’s Vines/Tweets/Videos of how amazing his library looks when an author visits. My students want to impress authors. They want authors to feel welcome. I think that my students have learned so much about being a good host and doing things the right way by hosting authors.

I loved it when Andy busted out his laptop an gave the kids a sneak peak at The 52 Story Treehouse.

A photo posted by Colby Sharp (@colbysharp) on Apr 4, 2014 at 1:19pm PDT

5. Author Visits Need to be Done Right

I need to write a whole post on this one.

The success of an author visit is 80% teacher/librarian preperation and 20% author delivery. Those numbers are not exact. It may be more like 90% teacher/librarian prep. The bottom line: if you don’t prepare our students like the author visit is a huge deal and extremely important it is just another assembly. I have been in an author visit where some classrooms are prepared and some classrooms are just at another assembly. It’s not pretty. It’s not cool. It’s not fun. A couple of classrooms not prepared can totally change the vibe of an author visit.

I have so much more to say on this topic. More to come!

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11 thoughts on “Five Thoughts on Author Visits

  1. You are SO right about the importance of preparation! I’ve had vastly different experiences visiting schools that seemed very similar except for one thing: preparation. I was so amazed by the difference between two schools, only a day apart, that I was inspired to write about it. The prepared school even involved an assembly with a revolving disco ball. It was amazing. The essay is titled “A Tale of Two Visits” in the link above. Thanks so much for your terrific post!

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  2. You’re absolutely right about the importance of being prepared. It’s the difference between something which could be life-changing, and something which kids will have forgotten a month later. With a prepared class, kids arrive excited and say, “Hey, WE read that book!” as they see the author’s materials. Without prep work, you’ve got to introduce yourself, prove “street creed,” and the kids will see you as just another adult with “an educational message.”

    In unprepared classes, they might file out afterward thinking of what they brought for snack. But in the prepared classes, kids don’t want to leave. They will crowd around the author and say, “I’m going to go home and write a story!” or just want to be near you.

    As someone whose life was changed by an author visit in 5th grade (Harry Devlin, illustrator of the “Cranberry” books), I know that the result of an author visit isn’t always immediate, visible or quantifiable. But if all it does is destroy the idea that you have to be a special, “talented” person to share your own stories, then it’s valuable for every student. And the prep work doesn’t have to be elaborate—reading one or more of the author’s books (15 minutes’ investment) is an adequate minimum. Any more and you’re creating a day that neither the students nor the author will forget!

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  3. I am so glad I found your post. Last year we had Mac Barnett come to our school for our small young authors program. It was so awesome that the teachers wanted a school wide assembly. We have Marissa Moss coming in January therefore I will be forwarding this post to our staff. I want our author visit to make a lasting impression with our kids also!

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  4. I LOVE the reactions on these kids with the authors! How wonderful 🙂 And I hope you make an impression on other teachers/librarians for the importance of prep 🙂 You want the visit to be successful for everyone, including the author, but especially the kids 🙂

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