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Tips for a GREAT Author Visit

Involve EVERYONE in your upcoming author visit!

 

Author visits are a terrific way to energize your school's reading and writing programs, from staff to students to parents. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of this year's author visit:

 

Get everyone involved!

On their websites, many authors have downloadable teacher guides for their books. Encourage teachers to use the guides in advance of the visit, so students will be familiar with the author's books (and excited about them!) before the event.

 

As much as possible, Involve the WHOLE staff. My author friends and I are all agreed: events tend to go well in schools where the principal takes the time to stop in and meet us -- even if only momentarily. It seems that when the principal is onboard, so is everyone else.

 

Resource teachers, (reading, art, music, library, etc.), can do amazing things to help build excitement for the visit. In advance, I always send a music CD that features my "Storytime Boogie" a bouncy song about reading at bedtime. I'm often sorry to learn that no one has heard the CD (or even knew about it) and therefore couldn't share it with the kids. (The song is always a hit, whether the kids know the song or not, but it's always more fun if they DO.) So do share those little extra goodies with your resource teachers. I understand that sometimes there's no room in the schedule to play the song for the kids before I come, but if they don't even know the CD exists, they can't make that decision.

 

School-wide activities

I've been greeted by some delightful bulletin boards at schools I have visited. That's just one way to build excitement about the visit. Here are a few others:

 

Have a school-wide art contest based on the author's books. Perhaps the winner's artwork could even be printed on t-shirts worn by staff on the day of the visit. Display all the art throughout the school in advance of the visit. Ideas for uses of the art would be posters, bookmarks, drawings, cutouts and crafts themed around the subject of the author's books.

 

Many authors have videos on YouTube and their own websites. If you do a morning TV program (or similar) in your school, show the video. If students have done book reports on the author's books, they can read them as guest presenters on your morning show.

 

Choose a theme based on the author's books. I was at a school recently that was "swimming" in clever crocodile art, celebrating my CROCODADDY. Everywhere, there were clever sayings like, "Sink into reading," and "Take a bite out a good book." You could even hold a slogan contest. Perhaps the winner could receive a free book.

 

Get parents involved!!

 

If the event will involve an evening parent program, it's even more important to promote the visit to parents.

 

• Be sure to put an article about the event in the school newsletter.

• Promote the event on your school's website

• As the day draws near, announce the upcoming visit on the school's outdoor road sign.

 

I know it's hard to get the attention of local media these days, but do send a press release about the event to your local newspaper and TV stations. You never know when they'll decide to send out a reporter who will do an enthusiastic story featuring your wonderful school! (Even daily newspapers print event sections far in advance, so they'll likely want the press release at least 2 weeks in advance of your event.)

 

Hold a book sale! Many authors have an already-composed book order form you can print up and send home with the students. Allow plenty of lead-time for this. It's best if book orders are placed with the publisher (or your local bookstore) at least 2 weeks before the event. This means order forms should be sent home 3 to 4 weeks in advance of the visit.

 

Even if you're not holding a book sale, it's great if parents are clued in about the upcoming visit. Send home a flier. I have a downloadable 8.5x11 "poster" on my website which could also be used as a take-home flier. I also have printable bookmarks. Many authors do the same.

 

To mangle a famous phrase from an old movie: "If you feed them, they will come." Some of the best-attended parent programs have offered food -- even whole dinners -- to attending families. In today's rush-rush world, some parents are too tired to even THINK about taking their kids back to school after dinner. With dinner provided, giving tired parents a break, the turnout is phenomenal. I've seen food come from a variety of creative resourses: One school enlisted a staff member's church to provide meals. Another got their local Chic-fil-A to donate the food. Or simply ask folks (perhaps a committee) to bring snacks & drinks to share.

Check out this amazing groovy bus cake some clever person decorated in honor of THIS OLD VAN. It was huge! (And delicious!)

Over the years, I've been blown away by the clever decorations that greeted me on the day of my visit. And, of course, they've been up for a while, to build excitement among students and staff for the upcoming visit.

Over the years, I've been blown away by the clever decorations that greeted me on the day of my visit. And, of course, they've been up for a while, to build excitement among students and staff for the upcoming visit.

Classroom contests, like this door decoration contest are fun ways to build excitement. The prize can be a free book for the classroom library or lunch with the author (as long as your author is okay with that) or any number of other prizes. Other contests I've been told about were reading contests, guessing games or even just plain, old fashioned "pick a name out of a hat" contests.

It's a little strange the first time you discover your life has been the subject of someone's homework, but it's all about preparing students, building buzz for the upcoming visit.

I felt like queen of the castle when I discovered this cool tower in a school library. The librarian had collected my books all in one place (along with other titles that paired well with mine) to help spread the word to library visitors that the author would be coming for a visit.