When I talk to educators and librarians about READ LOCAL, there is one question they don’t ask:
Why should I host an author visit?
That’s because everyone knows that bringing an author or illustrator to your school has a bunch of amazing benefits. Up until recently, these benefits had not been studied. We only had anecdotal proof. But in June 2019, The National Literacy Trust in the UK reported that pupils had authors and illustrators visit their schools:
- Were twice as likely to read above their expected level for their age
- Were more likely to enjoy reading and writing
- Were more likely to be highly confident in their reading
Are you surprised? I’m not.
In my opinion, confidence is the key to success. When you are confident, you take chances. You reach further. You are open to curiosity. When you are enjoying yourself, you are always more confident. You even don’t mind failing as much.
It makes so much sense.
When an author or illustrator visits a school, the whole school reads. They hear the story behind the story. They hear the story in the voice that created it. They see that stories come from real people. They might hear “the bloopers” that helped make the story. They will hear about not just success, but failure, too. They will meet a new person who cares about books.
When I started thinking about READ LOCAL, my goal was to make it possible for EVERY SINGLE KID in ILLINOIS to meet an author or illustrator. That remains my big goal.
You want to make it happen?
Let’s start with the easy stuff.
Take a look at all the books by local authors and illustrators. Request them at your library. Bring them to your classrooms. Ask your local bookseller to carry them.
Find one you love. Then reach out.
By far, the easiest way to bring an author/illustrator to your class is to use Skype. Most of us will Skype for 30 min at no cost. I Skype with readers all over the world. (I’ll be in China tonight!) When we come together with readers of all ethnicities, beliefs, and cultures, we make important connections. Do you want to add empathy to your curriculum? Talk to an author or illustrator. When your kids hear about the process of making a book, they will be floored.
Then let’s set a goal.
This March, let’s see if we can’t create local connections through Skype. If you want to do this, the answer is yes. Check out the website. If you are unsure, just email me.
Then think bigger.
If you are a librarian or bookseller, let’s make a panel. There are many ways to bring local authors/illustrators to your community.
If you are a teacher or reading specialist, schedule a local visit. If you don’t have funds, apply for a scholarship. We want to help.
Then Get Excited!
Whether you are meeting online or in person, there are things you can do to make sure the visit goes well.
- Buy some books and share them with your students.
- Check out the author or illustrator’s website.
- GET EXCITED by making signs or other projects. There is nothing more thrilling than a welcome sign. Most authors and illustrators have teachers’ guides on their sites. Take a look.
- Offer book orders. Most independent bookstores are happy to provide online order forms. A signed book is a special prize!
Authors and Illustrators can also help you prepare by sending you information. Or bookmarks! Or other material.
Friends, during Thanksgiving I expressed gratitude for all the educators, librarians and readers that I have met since I moved to Illinois. I have been so inspired by young readers—and I hope I have inspired them, too. Our state has a unique opportunity to engage young people by introducing them to the people who make books.
Are you ready?
Are you excited?
This is what we want to do. Join us!
Children’s author Sarah Aronson is also the founder of Read Local Illinois, a program to promote and support school visits by Illinois authors and illustrators