Thursday, March 14, 2013

What's the Real Value of Author School Visits?

I love it when teachers and librarians understand and recognize the value that author school visits can provide students. Yesterday, I visited Battle Mountain Elementary and Lemaire Elementary in a small mining community in the middle of Nevada. In spite of the five hour drive through the sagebrush covered desert the day before and the five hour drive back after the visit, it ended up being one of my favorite school visits ever.

The school librarian told me ahead of time that the small, out-of-the-way community doesn’t get much in the way of entertainment, so my visit to the school was going to be a big deal. So of course, the teachers, school administration, and students were all excited to have me there. The kids were all engaged in the presentations I gave. They listened. They participated. They laughed when they were supposed to. Even one sweet little girl ran up to me and gave me a hug afterward. All of those were wonderful and added to making it a great experience, but what really made it such a satisfying experience were comments that different teachers made to me at different times after the presentations.

After my Exciting World of Books presentation, one teacher said something to the effect, “The way you read to the kids with such expression is just what we needed to reinforce what we’ve been teaching with fluency. The kids loved it, and now we can say, ‘See, that’s why it’s important to read with expression.’”

After my presentation on Story Creation Fun, one teacher made a comment like, “Your segment on showing versus telling is just what we we’ve been trying to get across to our students. Kids don’t always believe or think what teachers teach is important, but when they hear it from an author, then it makes an impact.” Another teacher said, “Thank you for covering the “try-fail cycle. We’ve been working on that and you reinforced what we’ve been teaching. It was perfect.”

This is the effect that I want all my school visits to have. I want to reinforce in a positive way what teachers are trying to teach. I want kids to get excited about reading. I want to help nurture a love for reading in their lives. I not only want to teach kids some of the key aspects of how to write better stories, but I want them to get a feel for how wonderful and fun the story creation process can be.

The real value of an author school visit is not its entertainment value. The real value of an author school visit is the positive, life-changing impact it can have on students, while reinforcing the schools, teachers and librarians’ efforts in a way that no other activity or assembly can.

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