15 things I’ve learned about author school visits

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At this point, I’ve spoken to well over FIFTY THOUSAND STUDENTS. (Gulp!) I’ve learned a few things along the way…

PuddlePugGiveaway(This is an expanded version of an article appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of “The Highlighter,” the newsletter of the Mid-Atlantic Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I’m running a contest this week! By June 1, 2015, pop down and leave a relevant comment – to make sure I don’t confuse you with a spammer – and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Puddle Pug WITH the adorable Scholastic CD audio version of the book. There will be two winners, so your changes are good. Good luck!)

1. Pre-Ks, kindergartners and first graders do not really ask questions. They TELL you things. Some things they tell you are sweet and entertaining, but a dozen “I-have-a-dog-too” refrains can eat up precious time. For this reason, I generallystudents raising hands only invite questions from 2nd grade and up.

2. The best presentation is one that combines education and entertainment. I want them to be entertained; they’ll pay closer attention and will remember everything more clearly. But I want them to walk away with skills and knowledge they can apply to their own reading and writing. This is doubly true in this age of standardized tests.

Siri! Follow that bus!

FollowThatBus_150Whenever I’ve got the luxury of time, I try to scope out a school’s location ahead of time. I don’t do this for nearby schools (within 90 minutes) even if I’ve never been to that school before. But if it’s far enough away that I’ll be staying the night before in a hotel, if I get into town early enough, I’ll sometimes swing by the school the night before, just to get the lay of the land. What the heck. I’m there with not much else on my dance card for the evening, right?

Most of the time, the early foray hasn’t turned out to be necessary. Most schools have typically sufficient parking, and my smart phone would have gotten me there with no problems. But occasionally I’ve run into confusing locations that made me glad I checked them out in advance. Even when I HAVE pre-checked the location, the scene will be very different in the morning if I’ve been asked to arrive during that crazy student drop-off time.

Some obstacles to watch for: [Read more…]