Today we welcome a new blogger to our team. Jennifer M. Barnes is a retired kindergarten and first-grade teacher and will draw from those experiences in her upcoming posts. She is thrilled to be part of our blogging team and we’re excited to have her!
“So, tell me about this new kid,” a kindergarten parent said.
“New kid?” I asked.
“You know, Jerry. All we hear lately is Jerry and the cool things he’s doing.”
“Jerry Pallotta?” I laughed. “He’s not a kid. He’s the author we’re studying – the one coming for a school visit.”
Wouldn’t you love to be a kindergartner’s friend? Give cool ideas to writers? Have your books discussed over dinner? The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to focus on creating memorable author visits for elementary schools.
Spend time with God, asking for direction on potential schools and the people whose lives you will cross. Pray for doors to open. Know that God has a plan for your career and your life. Rest in that knowledge.
Do the Research
Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran, it’s interesting to research what other authors do during school visits. Browse children’s authors websites. Click publicity tabs. View their supplemental materials.
Stay aware of literacy events at schools, libraries, and bookshops. Look for news of local and visiting authors. Subscribe to their mailing lists as well as newsletters of local schools, churches, preschools, and homeschooling groups. Follow them on social media.
When you discover author visits, attend and study their interactions. Note their schedule. Take pictures and analyze their setup.
- Is their clothing significant?
- What props or teaching materials have they brought?
- What makes their presentation shine?
Take notes on their key points. If they offer a Question-and-Answer time, write the children’s questions. (Later, consider how you’d respond.)
Build Hype in School Visits
Author Mike Thaler knows about building hype. Entering his website, you’re immersed in yellow. Mike always wore yellow and invited kids to join him. Although he no longer visits schools, he shares many ideas on his website.
When author Anthony Fredericks visited, kids acted like attendees at a rock concert. Anthony enthralled his audience by using hysterical and gross animals in his PowerPoint presentations. His booming voice varied, grabbed attention, and reined in screams. Amazing as it may seem, the kids heard everything he said.
Keep a Cool Mindset
Prior to your visit, the media specialist hopefully provided your books to the classes. If those schools were like mine, they didn’t make it to every class. As a result, some students (and teachers) may be clueless about your book. Keep perspective. Don’t take it personally. Seize this opportunity to show them who you are and gift them with the message oozing from your book.
Alternatively, others may consider you an old friend. They may have analyzed your writing, visited your website, and even own one of your books. Enjoy connecting, taking photos, and chatting about your work.
Leave Your Footprint
Showcase your strengths. If you’re an illustrator like the late Floyd Cooper, you could demonstrate illustration techniques. During his school-wide session, Floyd invited volunteers to draw random shapes on huge papers. With a bold marker, he built intricate drawings, astounding the crowd. My colleague was given a signed drawing. The piece hung prominently on her wall, inspiring young writers all year.
Author Jerry Pallotta shared the progression of a book. Seeing his rough draft with scribbles enabled every young writer to recognize he was just like them. Watching the sloppy copies fade into a typed draft, then a book, inspired us all. Jerry left us with hope.
Give Everybody Something
Although you’ve determined a plan for book sales, those sales will be smaller than the number of children you’ll impact with your message. You have a priceless opportunity to leave something special with each child.
An inspiring bookmark or kid-friendly business card might be a possibility. Don’t lose money from this creation. Simply give enough information for them to find your name, website, and book titles.
You’d be amazed how long kindergartners clutch business cards—regardless of how long they’ve known you. That afternoon, they’ll head home, sharing your message. Eventually, their parents will say, “Now, who’s this person?” These followers might draw a blank… until they remember your card. That evening or next Christmas, their parents might order your book. Your newest friends might search for you in bookstores, request your titles at book fairs, and go on library waiting lists.
Embrace the Unpredictable
Invariably, something surprising will occur. Don’t stress when unexpected things happen. Know that God has your back and trust Him to handle the issue. Commit to yourself that you’ll have fun. No matter what, this day will end. Keep smiling and nodding. Leave upbeat.
How do you make the most of author visits? Please share your stories. Have any questions? I’ll do my best to answer in future posts.
Before polishing your presentation, read this post, Think Like a Child by Guest Blogger, Terri B. Kelly – Write2Ignite She’ll help you consider best word choices.
A variation of this post first appeared on my blog, Making the Most of Author Visits for Elementary Schools – Jennifer M. Barnes (jennifermbarnes.com).
Jennifer Mills Barnes invested her life in children, teaching mostly kindergartners and first graders for three decades. She was blessed to coach 41 student-teachers and welcomed over 2000 visitors into her inquiry-based classroom. Jennifer had the privilege of speaking at more than 20 conferences and served as an adjunct professor for two semesters at the University of South Carolina. She garnered national and state awards while maintaining National Board certification. But, Jennifer’s passion was authentically teaching little kids.
These days, she feels called to write stories for children. As a retired teacher, she also captures her most powerful teaching moments to share with a new generation of children through helping their parents, grandparents, and teachers. The rest of the time, you can find her road-tripping with her husband, delighting in her garden, or hanging with her adult children and grandson, Tucker. Connect with her on Pinterest, Twitter, or her website, jennifermbarnes.com. Plus, check out the podcast “KidTalk” that was created with her first graders.