Making Author Visits Unforgettable: A Guest Post by Aaron Reynolds
We love this guest post from Aaron Reynolds, and we think Books in Bloom readers will too, especially those of you who plan author visits in schools. Want to make your next author visit the Best Author Visit Ever? Read on for Aaron Reynolds’ tips and tricks!
As a children’s author, it should be no secret that I love reading and writing kids books. But my absolute favorite thing about being an author isn’t the writing itself. It isn’t the fact that I have no boss. It’s not the freedom to go on vacation in the middle of the year while you’re stuck at work. Okay, that last one might be my second favorite thing.
But my favorite thing is visiting elementary schools. There is something absolutely magical and transformative (on both sides) about an author being able to connect with kids in person. Author visits do much more than entertain or fill a vacant assembly slot. At their best, they inspire kids about reading, filling them with the kind of enthusiasm for books that is usually reserved for their favorite video game or sports team. They turn non-readers into readers and readers into book-eating machines. And while I do everything in my power to create interactive, hilarious, and deeply memorable presentations for kids, the most meaningful and transformative preparation is done by teachers and librarians before I ever arrive.
Reading my books to the students in the days and weeks leading up to the author visit. Building anticipation through art projects. Creating hallway and classroom door countdown calendars leading up to the big day. These types of actions, this type of excitement-building forethought takes an author visit from a fun hour-long assembly into an eagerly anticipated celebration of books, leaving ripples in kids long after the author has driven away.
But occasionally I meet a set of teachers or librarians that take it to a whole new level. A school that manages to build a heart-pounding, frothing-at-the-mouth, foot-stomping eagerness in their students. I know when I leave these schools at the end of the day, the kids will be forever impacted, not because I’m anything super-special, but because the teachers made it so.
Here are a few examples that have knocked my socks off.
GO ON THE HUNT
For some reason, kids are dumbfounded to find that us authors are just regular people. Not only does it demystify us authors when kids learn this, but it creates accessibility…it makes them imagine that, if a normal schmo like Aaron Reynolds can become an author, maybe I can too!
A simple way to do this is to have students explore an author’s website, where they’ll often find lots of personal details about us. But make it interactive. Create a fill-in-the-blank scavenger hunt of facts and trivia about your visiting author that sends them scurrying through the website’s landscape ravenously searching out juicy morsels of intel.
They love my reactions of surprise when they proudly inform me that my favorite food is lasagna or that I hate mint chocolate chip ice cream (it tastes a bit like toothpaste, let’s be honest). And after I call them internet stalkers (which they love), I see it in their eyes…a connection. A realization that this guy is just like me. And that’s powerful.
REIMAGINE THE ENDINGS
Want to make it more on-topic? More in line with your school’s core goals? I get it. Okay, then let’s get them writing. But not just writing the same old same old. After reading one of my books, kids adore being able to change them. To rewrite the endings in a different way. To reimagine my book, if they had been the author. Have them create a new plot twist of their own creation, rather than the sardine in President Squid. Have them rewrite Carnivores from the perspective of the bunnies and the zebras. Have them create their own sequel to Here Comes Destructosaurus! featuring the secondary character of King Kluck. By using your visiting author’s books as a springboard to writing creativity and structure, you’ll make your language arts lesson much more immediate, relevant, and personal. It’s a joy during my visits to watch kids proudly show me their reimaginings of my stories displayed on classroom doors and hallway walls. I know that they’ve not only been made very familiar with my stories in advance (which is a gift to your visiting author, believe me), but my stories have become their stories. Which creates a hunger for more stories! Let’s face it, I’ve never met a kid who loves books who doesn’t know how to read or isn’t eager to learn. Core goal accomplished.
BATTLE OF THE BOOKS
Want to get every student in your school reading your upcoming author’s books? There are two things kids love: Having their voice heard. And competition. Capitalize on this by creating your own March Madness style Battle of the Books, featuring your author’s titles squaring off against each other in the ultimate book-on-book showdown.
Which Aaron Reynolds books will reign supreme in your school? Will Nerdy Birdy demolish Creepy Carrots in Round 2? Will President Squid trump Chicks and Salsa in Round 4? Let your kids decide! They’ll be waiting in line to check out books, eager to make their vote count towards the final winner. And when kids are devouring books? Everyone wins.
I’m so appreciative to teacher and librarians that build anticipation for my author visits! It reminds me on a regular basis that, though being an author is a solitary job, I am not without colleagues. It is my great pleasure to partner with librarians and teachers like you. Not just to not just create life-long readers of books. But life-long LOVERS of books. Many of you, like me, believe that there are no such things as kids who hate books. There are kids who love books. And kids who don’t know they love books yet.
About the Author: Aaron Reynolds is a New York Times Bestselling Author of many highly acclaimed books for kids including President Squid, Nerdy Birdy, Carnivores, and the Caldecott Honor Winning Creepy Carrots! He has a passion for kids’ books and seeing kids reading them. He regularly makes time to visit schools where his hilarious hands-on presentations keep kids spellbound. Aaron lives in Chicago with his wife, 2 kids, 4 cats, and anywhere between zero and ten goldfish, depending on the day. Visit him at http://www.aaron-reynolds.com.