If you are a parent, you may have received a note from school announcing there will be a book signing, author visit or book expo. Kids are often excited about it and parents also come to learn of interesting authors in their area. But research has proven that more than just an activity, author visits have a measurable impact on students, especially in areas that are directly related to the schools curriculum goals.
Teachers have pointed out that author visits increase student scores in reading, interest in reading, reading efficiency, writing interest, and positive attitude about revisions.
When I visit schools and read “Beato Goes To”, kids come to learn about different countries’ geography, animals, costumes, languages, food and more. I share with them my own personal stories of the places I visited, the characters I met, and of course pictures of Beato.
Since “Beato Goes To” is a series, I find that readers are hooked after listening to one story and want to read another one right away. In fact, I have several parents writing to me asking, “My kids want to know where is Beato going to next?”
Meeting an author and learning about their personal story is very important than just going to the library and picking up a book. Kids understand that authors are real people and have norma lives doing extraordinary things. I tell them where I went to school, what where my favorite subjects, how I came up with the idea for my books and what I want readers to learn from my writing. Most of all, they are simply excited to meet someone who has traveled to 70 countries!
When the kids see that my books are based on my real-life pet, Beato, many of them are encouraged to write stories based on their own pets as well. I have often had 5-year old come up to me and tell me all about their kitty who does adorable things and narrate an entire story on the spot.
Another question I get asked often is “How long did it take for you to write a book?” At this point, I tell the students about my book writing process which entails months of revisions with my editor and illustrator. They are surprised to learn that it can take up to a year to produce a book, but develop a better attitude towards writing school papers afterwards.
As an author, I have to be conscious of how I read a book to an audience. Things like how to hold the book while reading to students, to share the pictures in the book, and to emphasize the words that go along with the pictures also matter. Kids pick up on these things and develop skills to read in front of their classmates and when they have to give class presentations.
So, why don’t schools have author visits more often? Mostly due to time and budget constraints. Parents can help by assisting with planning author visits and many PTA’s make this a part of their responsibility.
It is important to note that authors spend a lot of time in writing, publishing and marketing the book, as well as preparing for a school visit. Therefore, schools should always budget for author visits.
According to Little Brown Young Readers division, a publisher’s grid that includes 80 authors and illustrators, the median fees for hosting a local author is $775 and out of state is $1250. Many author visits are funded by grants, from service organizations or commercial companies, that are written by a teacher, librarian or parent.