1. Why should I book an author/illustrator/performer visit for my classroom – how will my students and I benefit from it?
2. Why do authors/illustrators/performers charge fees for school visits?
3. Why is there such a variation in fees for school visits?
4. Why should I pay an author/illustrator/performer to visit my school, when I've heard that I can get some authors/illustrators/performers to do presentations for free?
5. What additional expenses could I be looking at when I invite an author/illustrator/performer to my classroom?
6. Are there any subsidies available to help defray the cost of a school visit?
7. How do I select the right author/illustrator/performer to visit my classroom?
8. What can I do to ensure that my classroom gets the most out of a school visit?
9. What is the difference between a reading and a workshop?
10. What is my role as a teacher during a school visit?
11. What can teachers do to follow up on a school visit?
Kids love to meet authors, illustrators and performers. “Did you really write that?” they ask. “I love drawing and telling stories, too!” “One day I’m going to write a book!”
Librarians report that books fly out of the library after a presentation. Authors, illustrators and performers bring literature to life. They tell the story behind the story and share how they find ideas, shape them into stories and pictures, and develop engaging characters. They encourage kids to use their own experiences in telling their own stories. They talk about how to tell a story, editing and rewriting. They discuss how to research and make nonfiction exciting. For 45–60 intense, interactive minutes, these visiting artists entertain, educate and inspire kids and adults to appreciate literature and the writing process in a fresh, new way. Teachers, too, benefit in the process, and often report a surge of creativity, as well the delight of learning new techniques for teaching creative writing, illustrating and storytelling.
In short, while the content of each school visit varies, every CANSCAIP member is an experienced professional, passionate and enthusiastic about building literacy in young people, and this is evident in their presentations.
“…school library media programs with a full-time teacher-librarian resulted in higher student achievement in statewide studies. Library programs positively affect student achievement.”
The Crisis in Canada’s School Libraries, Dr. Ken Haycock
Authors, illustrators and performers are professionals who've spent years honing their craft. Many have had other careers. Some have been teachers, librarians, editors, designers, even lawyers. They bring all their education, talents, insight and skills to their presentations, and provide a valuable service that complements and enhances the school curriculum.
Like any professional, they charge for their time and service. Many hours are involved in designing dynamic, appealing presentations geared to audiences of varied ages and needs.
Although CANSCAIP guidelines suggest a range of fees for school visits, it is up to each author/illustrator/performer to establish his or her own fee. Newer presenters might start by charging less, and as they gain experience, increase those fees. More established authors/illustrators/performers are often inundated with requests for school visits, and may choose to charge higher fees to reflect their experience, as well as the demand for their time. Remember that when an author/illustrator is visiting a school, he or she is taking time away from creating the books that readers are so eager for.
Most professional authors/illustrators/performers charge fees for school and library visits. Sometimes professionals may choose to do an occasional reading at no charge, but this is entirely at their discretion, and it is generally inappropriate to request it.
Sometimes, authors/illustrators who are self-published may offer free presentations as a means of promotion, and as a vehicle to sell their books.
A self-published author/illustrator is someone who pays to have a book in print, whereas a professional author/illustrator is one who is paid by an accredited commercial publisher for the work, and thereby has gone through the selection, screening and quality controls established by that publisher.
CANSCAIP membership policy states:
“Unfortunately we don’t accept self-published books towards qualifying for full membership. We don’t mean to slight authors who go this route, but we've chosen publication by a commercial publisher as our standard for full membership. We recognize that self-published books can be of high quality, but deciding to accept some self-published books would mean evaluating each one, and we don’t want to put ourselves in that position.”
For a school visit, therefore, it is up to teachers to carefully choose whom they invite—whether professionally published or self-published—so that the visit promotes literacy and fosters a love of reading. A weak presentation or a poorly written book just fills time, and may turn kids off reading. In assessing the value of a free reading, it is up to the teacher to decide if the presenter’s books are likely to engage and enrich students, and if the experience, credentials and reputation of the presenter are likely to fulfill the outcomes hoped for with the visit.
Depending on where the presenter lives, there may be travel expenses, either mileage costs for kilometres travelled (e.g., $0.37 per kilometre by car; ask what your presenter charges) or air, bus or train fare.
If the presenter is not within reasonable driving distance, overnight accommodations and meals will need to be covered by the host. Some presenters are comfortable with billeting, but most are not, so calculate for hotel expenses.
Other possible expenses may include, where applicable, travel expenses to and from the airport, train, bus station (e.g., taxi fare).
Keep in mind, too, that many presenters must add GST/HST to their fee.
Various grants and subsidies are available to help fund school visits. Some of these programs are administered through The Writers’ Union of Canada, including:
Details of these programs can be found at The Writers’ Union of Canada readings subsidy programs.
Some provincial associations operate similar programs autonomously. These include:
Your students will be most excited about a school visit if they are familiar with that person’s work. Consider which Canadian books are classroom favourites for younger grades, or are most in demand from the library for older students, and see if that author’s or illustrator’s work fits the grade level of your students. When possible, choose a presenter with a book whose subject matter ties in with current studies.
Other considerations may include the proximity of the presenter to your school, and whether you are able to afford the additional costs of inviting an out-of-town presenter.
The CANSCAIP website, which includes a list of members who do school visits, is a valuable tool to help you identify which authors/illustrators/performers best fit your needs. You may also want to check the websites of individual artists, to find out more about them. As well, ask other teachers and librarians to recommend artists who have done wonderful school presentations.
Contact your presenter well in advance of the proposed date to ensure that you agree on your intended venue, audience size and grade level. Discuss any special requests you may have about the needs of your classroom, or the books or themes you’d like the presenter to cover. As well, make sure you know of any special equipment (e.g., audio visual) required by the presenter. Find out about dietary requirements, if you are booking a full day with the presenter, and if the school is providing lunch.
Once the arrangements are confirmed, the most important thing to do is to prepare your students by familiarizing them with the work of your invited presenter; this will greatly enhance the success of the visit. The more students know about the presenter, the more interested and enthusiastic they will be. Encourage students to prepare questions that they’d like the presenter to answer. (Discuss the difference between comments and questions; discuss what types of questions are appropriate. Pertinent but not impertinent!)
When possible, have students do projects (crafts, posters, etc.) based on the presenter’s books, to build excitement and a sense of connection. Ask younger students to draw or write what they think the presenter looks like, based on his or her work. When the presenter arrives, students will be excited to see if their descriptions or drawings are accurate.
If the presenter has been asked to bring books for sale, send an advance notice home with students.
Finally, check the school schedule to make sure your presenter won’t be competing with assemblies, student pictures and other events that may conflict with, interrupt or reduce the presenter’s audience.
A reading (approximately 45-75 minutes; shorter for very young audiences) usually consists of a presentation that includes the presenter reading from one or more of his or her books, and sharing tips and insights, as well as interesting anecdotes on how the book was created (often showing first drafts and notes), followed by a Q&A period.
A workshop is more interactive and hands on. A writing workshop usually includes in-depth discussions on the process of writing, with students having the opportunity to write under the guidance of the author, who provides encouragement and feedback. With an illustrator, the students might, for example, be challenged to create a character on paper. The illustrator might offer suggestions, while also answering questions on facial expression, scene perspective, as well as tips and tricks. The illustrator may also draw along with the students, using either the black board or a flip chart, often with the students enthusiastically requesting the subject matter. The depth of the activity will depend on the time allotted to the workshop. A Q&A period usually closes the workshop.
It is vital to the success of the visit that the teacher participates fully and enthusiastically. Be prepared to introduce your presenter to the class, or assign a student to do so. Students follow a teacher’s lead, so bear in mind that a teacher distracted by marking, or other tasks, may inadvertently convey the impression that the school visit is not valued.
Please be prepared to deal with persistent behaviour problems if there are any. Presenters do not know the students, and they rely on the teacher to not let the students get out of control, while still allowing students to be excited about the visit.
Often very young students have a hard time forming a question. Teachers can start the ball rolling by asking their own questions about writing, performing, illustrating, publishing. Sometimes it helps to prepare a list of questions in advance and have them ready on a flip chart or blackboard.
On the more practical side, speaking can be a thirsty business. An offer of tea/coffee and bottled water is most appreciated.
If the visit spans the lunch period, let the presenter know if the school will be providing a lunch. If the presenter is to bring a lunch, please invite him or her to join you and other teachers in your lunch room.
Visits from an author/illustrator/performer create a connection with students that will last long after the presentation day. Educators can keep this connection strong by ensuring that the library has a good stock of the presenter’s books, and by featuring them prominently in the library in the days following the visit. Using the presenter’s work as part of a teaching unit is also a great way to build on the connection created and to motivate students.
Teachers can also have the students reflect on the presenter’s visit through writing or art projects in the days following the visit. Ask the students questions like: What did they like or not like about the visit? What did they learn? Were they surprised or disappointed by what they saw or heard? By exploring topics such as these, students will get much more out of the visit and teachers can extend the value of a visiting author/illustrator/performer beyond the actual time spent visiting the school.
Many CANSCAIP members enjoy getting feedback from students after a visit, which further strengthens the literacy tie between students and the presenter. Encourage students to write their thoughts about the visit or messages, and forward them to the presenter via the organizing teacher.