Two Great Days In School
I recently finished two great days visiting in a couple of Connecticut elementary schools. I've never had a bad experience in a school, but there have been times when, let's say, the enthusiasm level of the teachers and students wasn't everything it might have been. At my two most recent "day jobs" it was everything a visiting author could hope for. There were signs made up in the media center to let students know I was coming, and teachers had obviously spent time reading my books with their students. Why does this make a difference? Kids who've read a visiting author's books ask more detailed questions and have more of them. They want to know where specific ideas came from, and they talk about characters. The experience is more pleasurable for the author (for this author, anyway), and the kids seem to get more out of it.
Teachers who prep the kids are able to use author books to generate writing, too. One teacher read her class the first chapter of My Life Among the Aliens and then had them write their own chapter. They included a book cover for their stories. At least three other classes did Alien illustrations.
PTO/PTA representatives, media specialists or anyone else preparing for an author visit to a school or library (as well as authors preparing for such a visit) should take a look at Terrific Connections With Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers by Toni Buzzeo and Jane Kurtz. I attended one of their workshops at a New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrator's Conference a while back and hope some day to finish reading their book. Not that their book is difficult to read or anything. I'm just years and years behind in my reading.