August 24th, 2016

Why I Love School Visits

I don’t remember ever having an author visit when I was at school and we definitely didn’t have an illustrator visit (now that would've blown my mind!). However author visits have now become very commonplace when promoting books in children’s publishing. Yes there’s the obvious reason that publishers and authors choose to do this to boost book sales but there are so many more positives for both the author/illustrator and the children too! Here are some of the reasons why I love doing school visits and why I think schools might like them too!

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– Children get to be creative

The British education system has always been a topic in my life as my mum is a headteacher, my partner works in education and I also have a part time job in education (when I can be dragged away from my desk). As many people know, the national curriculum is unpredictably changing right now and the pressure schools are put through to produce high SATS results are unrealistic for both teachers and pupils. So when children are given a chance to learn about how books are made, to learn about creative writing and even illustration, I feel that is a welcome break for both pupils and teachers. When I think about activities for pupils, I try to include activities that teachers can extend I as part of their lessons if they choose to. For example, I gave a sheet with an egg to all pupils at Mulbarton Infant School for them to colour in (as part of my book ‘The Egg’). But before then we had a group discussion with the pupils about what animals/creatures hatch from eggs, after that they would draw that animal on the other side of the paper. You’d be amazed and how many Year 2s knew that spiders and crocodiles and turtles hatch from eggs!

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– Children give the best feedback

One of my favourite things about working part time at a school is that I get to bounce concepts and ideas with kids and discuss what they like generally when they read. The same can definitely be said for school visits in which children will always ask the best questions. When showing samples of my artwork a small child asked me “why did you colour that bear green?” and sometimes simple questions like that really make you stop and consider why you do certain things. Children will always be brutally honest with you as to whether they like something or not also. They will tell you whether they think they would read that book or if you’ve drawn a Pikachu correctly (I know that last one from experience!).

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– It’s so much fun!

These visits are really full on and can be a bit exhausting. You’ve got planning to do and you have to put on a big, confident, fun personality in which children will find engaging and approachable. But it is so worth it! Working from home a lot can be quite an isolating experience and most of my contacts are through e-mail so it’s sometimes hard to know whether you are doing your job right or if you are doing the right thing, but when you do these visits it seems to reaffirm for me that my target audience enjoy what I do – so I must be doing something right!

Thank you to Mulbarton Infant School and Terrence Burchell for permission to use these photographs.

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by Grace Sandford

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