If being an author wasn’t enough, if you are lucky, you also get the honour of doing school visits. I absolutely love school visits and hearing the children’s questions and seeing how excited they are to have an author on site.

It initially takes a little bit of time to plan out how you are going to use the time and aiming it for the right age but once you have done the groundwork you have your foundation to adapt for future visits.

So what content do I use?

A presentation

I decided to design a powerpoint presentation on how books were made.

I have split this into 6 stages with a slide or two on each connected to the book I will read after the presentation completes. I have done this for two of my picture books, so I have a choice as to which book I read.

My sections are:
1) The idea
2) The Rough Draft
3) Revise Draft
4) Illustrations
5) Printing
6) Happy readers

I would allow around 20 minutes for this, as you will get lots of questions!

A Book Reading

Then follow with the book reading. You can easily allow 20 mins as you will again receive lots of fab questions at the end.

An activity

I also request a flip chart to be supplied. If you are given a longer slot then 40ish mins, or you do find for some reason you have a spare ten mins, I also prepare an activity.
The one I use is tasking the children to help me create a story.
I start off by saying something like..”all my stories are based on animals and insects as nature is close to my heart. I can watch animals/insects with great amusement, and it triggers my imagination. So let’s try to create a short animal story together!”
So, I start by asking “What female animal should we have in the book.” I choose 3 and write them down then get the children to vote on which one to choose.
Ask, “What name should we give her?”
Do the same with a male animal.
I also mention I usually have a grown up in the book. What animal should they be? And choose a name like before.
Summarise that we now have our main characters and read out the animals and names.
Now we need an occupation/job for the grown up. Again, choose 3ish and get the children to vote on which one to use.
We then need to think of a problem or what the story will be about, so I ask for ideas.
And then from there I steer them to draft a short story as to what happens to the characters.
I spend around 10-15 mins doing this.

Ages
The presentation, book reading and the activity, if there is time, I would aim at Year 3 (6 years) and above as younger than that 40 mins is a long time to sit for. But I work with the school/setting as to what is right for them and happy to adapt. Always be flexible with your content.

For years below this I tend to do an intro and ask a few questions about what they think I do and then what they think the book is about. I read the story then do questions at the end. This is around 20-25 mins.

For younger ages I also try to get the children up on their feet pretending to be the characters in the book. My picture book Rodney Seagull Chips, Ice cream And Cake is a great book for this as we pretend to be the seagull then the people who stop Rodney getting the food. This is always a hit. At the end I have a adapted a song to sing about Rodney stealing food which everyone loves singing to. Who doesn’t like a sing along!!

There are so many options of what to do at a visit. You could also incorporate an activity. Children love drawing and making things! Or add in a book signing.

I find the time goes too quick and I can’t wait for the next visit. I just need to work on not blinking in pictures :0) Most of them I have my eyes shut.

Tips
– I would send a pre-order form out prior to the event in case any children’s grown-ups would like to make an order and give a discount. Add an option to the form to sign the book and the name to make it out to
– I also add a promo code on my website with the same discount and add free shipping (as you will take the books with you to hand out) and let it expire the day before and then change it to add shipping after the event (so you can post any books if the school is not local to drop them off that is)
– I purchased a wireless presenter stick so I can turn the pages at a distance, works a treat
– Check with the setting they have a screen and that they have cables to connect to your type of laptop, if not you will have to take these along
– Supply the setting with a poster to display advertising the event and see if they will post about it on any social media, they may be part of
– I have also got book marks printed so I can hand these out to the children to take home, children love having a keepsake. For the younger ones I have stickers

I am happy to take any questions about author visits that you may have.

Most of all enjoy the experience each time you do one – at each event I am amazed at the clever questions, interactions and how engaged the children are. Children are brilliant to spend time with! Author life brings special moments and I look forward to each visit, I just wish I could do them everyday!