This is a guest post by Jen Cullerton Johnson, author of Seeds of Change. Johnson is a writer, educator, and environmentalist who teachers at an inner-city elementary school in Chicago.
Ashley Howey is the literacy coordinator at Briar Creek Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Last school year, she contacted me about my picture book Seeds of Change, a nonfiction biography of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya. Brier Creek Elementary school wanted to do something different, something no other school in their district had done before.
The school community wanted to adopt the themes within Seeds of Change to be the deep focus for student growth, teacher extended learning, and administration professional development. In other words, everyone at Briar Creek Elementary wanted to be involved in change. They wanted the book Seeds of Change to guide them because they felt it showed how people tackled big problems and worked together, and most importantly how change brings out each person’s inner potential.
Brier Creek Elementary School hosts diverse learners from various socio-economic and multicultural backgrounds. The school is supported by Title I and is a year around school. Their curriculum mission is to “cultivate culturally ambitious citizens.”
“We want everyone in our school to own a copy,” Ashley Howey said. “Teachers, students, cafeteria workers, administration, parents. Everyone.”
“How many is everyone?” I asked.
School visits from authors and illustrators are a great way to encourage literacy, bring books to life, and allow students to view themselves as creators. For a fee, many authors and illustrators will do in-person or virtual school visits, but there are ways to incorporate an author’s perspective into literacy units that work for any budget. Here are a few suggestions:
Over the past few years, I’ve watched the number of requests for virtual visits go up quite a bit. Part of this is because schools and libraries have had their budgets for author visits slashed, and part may just be because more people have access to speedy Internet and other technology that’s needed for a virtual visit to work.
Either way, virtual author/illustrator visits can be a great way to enable direct interaction between book creators and readers without the costs of an in-person visit. While authors usually still ask for an honorarium for virtual visits, often their honorarium is lower and travel costs are not an issue. Some authors also offer a free shorter (10-20 minute) virtual visit to classrooms or libraries who have purchased copies of their books. Here’s how to set up your first virtual author visit.
1. Set up the technology
Sometimes when I work with people who are thinking about setting up a virtual visit, they get a little panicky about the technology aspect. But virtual visits are actually quite easy, and don’t require all that much in the way of equipment. Here’s a basic list of what you’ll need:
- An operating system compatible with Skype, Google Hangout, or another similar program