Guest Post by Kirby Larson
One of my favorite parts of a school visit is the question and answer time. I love that opportunity to exchange ideas and energy with my young friends! And one of the things I’ve come to love best is the magic that happens when I point at one of those madly waving hands. Sometimes, the child I choose asks the exact same question that’s just been asked and answered. And that doesn’t faze me one bit. Because I know they’ve been so focused on remembering the question they want to ask that there’s no way they’re able to listen to me answer the kid I’d called on before them. I try never to say, “Oh, I just answered that question.” I just answer it. Again. With a smile.
But the really great part of Q&A is calling on a student and hearing the quiet gasps of the teachers. In that instant, I know I’ve called on “that” child. The wild card. The one that may spend more time than her classmates in some kind of disciplinary situation. And I have to tell you that in 20 years of doing school visits, in 20 years of Q&A, I have never had a disrespectful or disruptive question. Often, the best questions come from those very kids who elicit teacher concern. Once, I ran into a young man who’d asked me an insightful question after my presentation. He was, alas, in the office, waiting to see the principal. “I’m going to write a book someday,” he told me. “I’m sure you will,” I said, knowing that he would have plenty to write about. I was recently in California when one such “problem child” and I had quite a lively exchange during the question and answer session. Afterward, she flew up to me – ignoring her teacher’s instruction to stay in line—and nearly tackled me in a hug. “You’ve inspired me to be a writer,” she said.
That little girl, and my scoundrel friend in the principal’s office might have been similarly inspired after reading one of my books. But, knowing that type of kid, I doubt it. These kids need to see us in the flesh. They need a one-on-one connection. That can only happen with an author visit. The connections made when kids and authors are brought together make differences that last lifetimes.
About Kirby Larson
Kirby Larson is the author of the Newbery Honor book, Hattie Big Sky. Her latest books, Duke and Dash, are set during WWII. She also writes award-winning nonfiction picture books with her good friend Mary Nethery; those titles are Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival, and Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine and a Miracle. You can connect with Kirby via her website, her blog – kirbyslane.blogspot.com and on Twitter – @kirbylarson.