SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Tips for School Visits

by Noreen Kruzich Violetta

Doing school or library visits can be a rewarding experience. You’ll get to see and hear first-hand your intended audience’s reaction, and the questions and comments that are sparked by what you’ve written. You may even get feedback that you can use in future works.

When making the agreement with the school or library, be sure you know what you are getting into. For instance, the first time I was invited to present, I was so ecstatic that I never thought to ask if I would be doing more than one presentation that day. To my surprise, when I arrived and was handed the schedule for the morning, I discovered that I had been signed up to present to four classrooms individually when I had thought I would be presenting to one group of seventh and eighth graders. So that’s lesson one: Ask how many presentations are required of you and don’t assume it’s only one. It may be one type of presentation offered in several sessions.

That leads me to the next point. Make your specialty known. Often teachers or administrators who phone you for a presentation are not quite sure what they want. Tell them what you do best. Lay out for them exactly what you plan to do. For my first school presentation, I planned to have the kids create a story in small groups based on an outline and first line that I provided in advance. Thus, the teacher knew that this would be an interactive presentation.

Because my presentation was interactive, I needed the kids to be at their desks with pencil and paper in hand. Be sure the school or library knows what supplies the students will need.

You should also know what supplies you will need. I use props for the creation of story ideas, so I brought along a combination of things ranging from a camp lantern to a cast of a huge footprint thought to be that of a Sasquatch. Kids love props, which makes interesting objects a great way to entice your audience and get them involved.

How the kids are seated is another important consideration that should not be overlooked. Will they be at their desks, will they be seated on the floor in a semi-circle, or will they be seated in an auditorium? Know the seating arrangement; it makes a difference in your presentation. Beyond that, ask what size of group you will be presenting to, so you can adapt your presentation or make an agreement to change it to your liking.

Arrange to send in your bio or a sample of your work prior to your visit. Kids should know your work in advance. When I arrived for my first presentation, I found that the school had posted a bio on each visiting author on a bulletin board in one of the building’s high-traffic halls. Although I hadn’t known they were going to do that, I realized what a difference it had made when I stepped into the classroom and heard from the kids. So suggest a display prior to your visit to the school or library.

Your books should be available during the visit. If you will not be bringing your own copies, set up a way for the school to order your books for the presentation day, or suggest a bookstore where they may obtain them. If you are signing books, note to the administrators how you would like to do this and where. Sometimes you can pass note cards out to the children ahead of time, which makes it easier to write that personal passage into each reader’s book. This will also help you spell the names correctly in the dedications.

When arranging your visit, be sure not only to not only find out what pay you will receive (either per presentation or for the day) but also agree upon a rate for any extra presentations that might pop up during your visit. Negotiate an additional amount for travel or lodging expenses. Furthermore, be sure to ask when you will be paid for your service.

Nothing really compares with sharing your work with kids, in person. If you’ve done your homework and have a good handle on your presentation, then you can have fun with it and the kids will sense your enthusiasm for your subject. Watch and listen as they become inspired. It is amazing what they can come up with. You might learn a thing or two, yourself.