The Positive Impact of Author Visits on Students

I’ve been fortunate to have had a lot of author visits over the past seven years at Glenthorne High School where I manage the library.

At first, I found the idea of bringing in an author intimidating. There were too many things that could go wrong—I was really paranoid that I’d forget something, or I may have given them the wrong date. On and on it went.

However, over time, I learned that author visits are not only nothing to get too stressed about, they have a really lasting impact on the students, which is the entire point.

Alex Sheppard in front of David Bowie PosterI went to a school that never had an author, both elementary and high school. We didn’t have a school librarian, which is one big reason why. I assumed that all authors must be millionaires and that to become one you had to be born into a secret club.

Bringing in authors to meet students humanizes them, it tells the students that they can aspire to be creative and successful and put something great into the world.

On a base level, the author’s books will be borrowed at a higher level than before. A lot of promotion is required, but for me that’s part of the fun. I run lessons around the author’s books, creating activities that will get them thinking critically and being creative, all while promoting their books and the upcoming visit.

This creates a buzz that carries on even after the author has visit.

Anna James posing in front of our David Bowie PosterWe recently had author Anna James visit. Her novel, Pages & Co, is a brilliant story about an 11-year-old girl named Tilly who discovers she has the ability of Book Wandering. She can travel to the pages of her favourite books and interact with the characters. With this comes great thrills and of course great danger.

I’ve interviewed Anna in the past for Book Riot, and I’ve run library lessons around Pages and Co that the students really connected to.

Anna’s visit was a massive success. We sold out of all of our copies of Pages & Co, students lined up for their entire lunch hour to meet her and get their books signed after her talk in the Hall. She was an amazing speaker and made the talk interactive, funny and engaging.

After school the students were really buzzing about the visit, they loved how she was a former school librarian, her love of classic children’s novels and her ability to make fairytales come to life.

I can see the impact her visit has had, but there are other benefits to author visits as well.

In June 2019, The National Literacy Trust in the UK reported that pupils had authors visit their schools:

  • Were twice as likely to read above their expected level for their age
  • Were more likely to enjoy reading and writing
  • Were more likely to be highly confident in their reading

However, only one in four students in the UK had an author visit in 2019 and those from poorer backgrounds were most likely not to have a visit.

These findings are huge, and only make me more determined to bring in as many authors as I can.

Not every school can afford an author, but it’s worth it to get on social media and reach out. I fully believe that authors need to be paid for the work that they do. However, schools can combine finances to bring authors in and forging positive relationships can make a huge impact in the future.

Skype visits are also an option. They can be cheaper, easier to schedule and still a lot of fun. Our students recently Skyped with Rory Power, author of the thrilling Wilder Girls. Interest in the book has definitely increased and the students were able to have a hilarious time talking to a really smart and interesting author with a lot to say. I organised this visit purely by emailing Rory after I read Wilder Girls and thought it was really great. The worst thing an author will say is they don’t have time, it’s not the end of the world.

I can’t stress enough the impact author visits have on the entire school. They’re a lot of fun and now we know how important they really are.

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