Author Deb Lund on the Importance of Author Visits
What is your favorite thing about school visits?
I can’t fully express how excited I get about motivating and inspiring kids to write. I love reading the emails I get from teachers after my visits. They talk about classes getting back to their classrooms after my presentations and asking to write—and then proceeding to write for much longer than ever before. And when the students contact me themselves, that’s priceless. The reason I taught for many years and created an arts-based, experiential school, was to inspire lifelong learning. School author visits help me continue to do just that!
When students and staff get to know the creators of the books they love, the people and process become real. Hearing the stories behind the books and the authors’ lives can inspire reading and writing. As a past teacher-librarian, I’ve been on both sides of the equation, hiring and viewing presentations, witnessing first-hand the benefits to students, and later creating my own presentations and teaching residencies. Author visits are memorable to students, and I’m often surprised to hear from students and staff years later thanking me for something I said or did. Imagine how literacy rates might be affected if all students got to meet authors.
Schools often struggle with funding for visits and space constraints (with cafeteria’s being multi-use/auditorium spaces). They want every student included in the visit and are sometimes surprised if authors limit the number of presentations they offer in a day. If you limit the number of presentations you offer, why is it important for schools to follow your scheduling suggestions?
I try to limit presentations to no more than four, but when I’m teaching writing residencies in classrooms, I often see five or six classes in a day. During my years as a teacher-librarian and music teacher, I was amazed that authors would limit their visits to just a few—there were days when I’d see nine or ten classes, one right after another! However, it didn’t take long for me as an author to discover that school visits require a different kind of energy, and I only want to give my very best to any group I visit.
How have school visits changed in the last 10-years?
With a greater national and district focus on testing and Common Core standards, I’ve seen fewer schools opting for author visits. Today’s educators face so many more pressures. With school funding an issue, parent groups who often covered expenses for author visits find themselves being urged to take on other expenses. Students and teachers, as tightly scheduled and stressed as they are, need the balance and inspiration school author visits can provide.
From a presenter’s perspective, and as a creativity coach who has mentored other authors and illustrators on their presentations, I believe most of today’s authors and illustrators take time to create programs that are about far more than their books—as it should be! I remember hiring presenters who did little more than read to students, and I would encourage anyone thinking about hiring presenters to ask questions and most of all, ask for what you want. School visits should not be about book sales or what the author gets out of it. School author visits should always and only be about serving students and teachers.
What is your favorite question a student has asked at an event?
This one still makes me smile. I don’t remember the exact words, but a first grader once asked me if I could come live with her.