Sunday, November 22, 2009

An Author Came to our School


On Friday, I took the Little Ballerina to a school family night. It was advertised as an evening of storytelling by a "famous picture book author." While I thoroughly enjoyed it because she spoke a bit about being an author, the Little Ballerina and the rest of the under-7 crowd, and their parents, were not as enthralled.

I'm guessing this had a lot to do with the fact that our school advertised this as "an evening of storytelling," and what we got were lessons about writing. While the lessons were valuable, (to me as an adult) they sailed over the heads of the intended audience. Again, I'm sure this was the PTA pulling one of their famous bait and switches on us, and not the fault of the author. (As a 4 year PTA board member veteran, I should not be surprised, but I always get sucker punched by this fact at least once each year!)

So...here are a few bits of advice from a parent and former teacher for those who do school visits. (StoryQueen, if you're reading, I'd love your comments on this.) They probably seem insanely obvious, but after what we experienced, they may not be.

  1. Introduce Yourself - Yes, you may have already spent the day at the school and the kids may already know who you are, but the parents don't. 
  2. Know Your Audience - I'm assuming the PTA will tell you the age range of the students for a day visit, and it should match up with who is at the assembly. But, if you are there in the evening, you can't be sure what ages will show up. So, be over prepared. Have stories, lessons or activities ready for younger and older audiences and go with the one that matches the majority of your audience. 
  3. Tell A Story - If you've been promoted as a "storyteller," please tell a story. If it's one of your own, even better. 
  4. Engage the Audience -  If you can, have the group chant, sing, clap, move or repeat after you during the storytelling. If you can, bring audience members up to be part of the presentation as well. Ask the kids questions. Whatever works for you to get their attention and keep it.  
  5. Work Out Who Will Take Care of Discipline - Unfortunately, there may be times where some children become unruly...and the parents of these little angels are nowhere to be found. Either be a master at drawing wandering attentions back into focus or make sure someone from the school will have your back and step in. You shouldn't have to stand up there, continually raising your voice, to be heard above the chaos. 
  6. Have Your Books Available for Purchase - Even if you've sent home fliers ahead of time for families to buy books, bring extras along with you. If you don't read any of them to the audience, at least have them on display where families can see them and look at them. Be available at the end of your presentation to sign them. 
I hope this post is received in the spirit in which it is intended. In no way, am I saying that authors are incompetent and need my advice. Who the heck am I?!?!? Just someone who thinks that maybe someday she might like to find herself in front of an audience sharing something she wrote. And, if that day should come, these are just a few of the things I'd like to remember.

1 comment:

Lisa and Laura said...

Great tips!!! I would have no idea how to speak to kids about a book that we've written. I'm totally bookmarking this post!