Monday, February 6, 2017

Elementary principal: "Author visits are essential"

In December 2016, I had the pleasure of speaking at various schools in the Saginaw, Michigan area. This was orchestrated by the principal of Hemmeter Elementary, Jim Bailey—and that was only the beginning of his kindness.

On 2/5/17, at Nerdy Book Club, Jim posted an article that he wrote the week after my visit: "Inspiring Readers and Writers with Author Visits."

Humbling excerpts:

After Marc's visit, a group of staff members were so fascinated by the presentation that they gathered in the teachers' lounge after school and spent the next 45 minutes discussing the books and the visit. 

Most classrooms read [some of Marc's] stories in advance to prepare for the visit. However, after it was a Marc Tyler Nobleman reading explosion. The waiting list for one of Marc's books was twenty students long. The excitement was still going strong a week later. Kids were writing stories and illustrating comics up and down the halls of Hemmeter. It was awesome! 

Twitter was my first contact with Marc. We chatted about his book Bill the Boy Wonder. That conversation lead to me attending his session at the Michigan Reading Association Conference, which led to him coming to my school and completely blowing away the students and staff. 

But the point of the article was, of course, not me but rather an impassioned and informed plea for more schools to do more author visits. As Jim wrote, "If author visits are so powerful for creating readers and writers, why don't more schools schedule them? I believe two obstacles exist: funding for the author visit and finding an author to visit."

His suggestions on funding:

  • prioritize your budget—"You likely have things that will not give the return you will get from an author visit."
  • fundraise (remember, cutting author visits is not an option)—"One of our most successful fundraisers is our annual used book sale. This accomplishes two goals. It helps get books into our students' hands while raising money for the author visit. Most of the book donations come from our current and past families, community members, and current and retired teachers. We usually sell the books for $1-2. It's an easy fundraiser to organize. I like to find ways to raise money by doing things families are going to do anyways. We have restaurant fundraisers once a month. Many restaurants offer schools a night where the school receives a percentage of the total bill for families eating at the restaurant."
  • partner with another school—"It's a win-win." [MTN: I'd say it's win-win-win.]

This point by Jim sums it up succinctly: "Author visits are not extras; author visits are essential. They need to be a part of every school, every year."

It reminds me of a quotation I saw elsewhere by a school librarian:

"I can spend $1,000 on books and get 50 books that will be read by 30 students. Or I can spend that money on an author, who will reach all 350 students."

Thank you, Jim, for inviting me, and for being such an advocate for people like me visiting people like you and your communities.

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