When you’re an author for children and teens, school visits are an inescapable part of your year. Sometimes they come singly, most often in clumps at various key times: here in Australia, Children’s Book Week in August sees a little army of writers banging the drum for books and writing in classrooms and libraries all around the nation. But there are plenty of other times too when school visits dominate your time, and last week was one of those for me, when I had to visit eight schools in three days, turning myself from quiet writer at her desk with a head full of mind-adventures into extrovert entertainer persuading a class of rowdy kids that hey, reading is actually, y’know, cool!
And though a heavy program like the one I had last week makes me feel that rather than banging the drum for books, I’m actually turning my own poor aching head into a drum, and my throat is packing up as though it’s staging a protest against the sound of my own voice, and the whole ‘isn’t reading fun, folks?’ thing is beginning to pall just a little, the fun stories I’ve prepared feeling like some kind of irritating recorded message to my ears, still I enjoy it. It’s not just getting the chance to connect with your actual readership, and to spin stories to a generally appreciative audience who unlike me has never heard those stories before and just laps them up. It’s not just the pleasure of having it confirmed that despite what many adults believe, children read just as much as ever they did, and in pretty much the same patterns as when I was a child.
That is, a minority read heaps; a majority read sometimes; a minority never read unless they’re forced to. But it’s especially question time which to me is the best, most enjoyable and unpredictable part of a school visit. [Read more…]