Hosting an Author Event: a school's perspective

Emma Carroll's visit to Sunnymede School

At Just Imagine we organise hundreds of author events every year and we are always delighted when we see a school that has integrated the event into the pupils's learning. These visits are always the most satisfying for the pupils, teachers and for the author as well. One recent example was our visit to Sunnymede and we asked subject leader Laura Maclean to write a short blog for us about her experience of hosting and author and how good preparation ensures that the pupils get the most from it.

Laura said improving the school’s reading culture, a big priority for us and this visit also enabled us to work on an aspect of our School Development Plan - 

Prior to Emma’s visit

One month to go…

First, we introduced Emma Carroll and her books through an assembly.  We ensured that all teachers and LSAs were present to reflect the importance of her visit and to create interest amongst staff.  The pupils were introduced to Emma’s book ‘In Darkling Wood’ and all teachers were asked to start reading the book with their class.  They were requested to dedicate at least five minutes during each school day to sharing the text with their pupils.

Our office staff supported the visit by engaging parents through organising and sending out letters which included pre-visit special offers.  They also sent out follow-up reminders and sorted all the orders and monies that were returned.

Furthermore, our team of Library volunteers (parent helpers), created an stimulating display dedicated to Emma in our School Library, for the school community to view and engage with in the run up to her visit.

Two weeks to go…

A couple of weeks before her visit, a pupil who had created a PowerPoint presentation (in his free time) on Emma Carroll, came to me to ask if he could share this with years 4, 5 & 6.  Consequently, we organised another assembly and the pupil was able to present his work to the other pupils.  As a result of his presentation, it became apparent that the children had been thinking about questions they would like to ask her.  As a follow-up activity, teachers spent ten minutes in their classrooms discussing and recording the pupils’ questions in preparation for her visit.

During Emma’s visit

Emma commented that she felt like a celebrity on arrival, as the children were so excited to see and meet her!  We ensured again, that all staff were present in hall to reflect the importance of her visit.

First, she engaged all the children during her presentation by explaining how she came to write and where she got her inspirations from.  She interacted with the pupils using props and during a question and answer session.  Emma then partook in a book signing in our new and improved Library and she even took a photo of the display on her which ended up on Twitter!



After Emma’s visit

To conclude her visit, each class was asked to complete a piece of follow-up work.  Some classes focused on activities Emma suggested during her presentation, whilst others recounted the ‘best bits’ of her visit and two classes even wrote their own stories using the tips she had shared with them!

What was really great to witness was that not only were the pupils extremely positive, engaged and inspired by her visit, but the staff were too!  As a result, this has really helped us to improve our reading culture as pupils have been given the opportunity to observe their teachers enjoying reading and staff have become better role models with regards to displaying increased reading behaviours.  

Since her visit I have also witnessed further evidence of the positive impact this visit has had on our pupils.  I have seen an increase in pupils borrowing books from the Library, pupils taking books out onto the playground to read and I have been stopped several times in the corridor by children wishing to tell me which book they have just started reading.  However, what was of particular interest to myself pre-visit, was observing a group of boys in my year 6 class that were not really interested in about listening to a story that involved fairies.  Now post author visit, they cannot wait to hear the rest and I am often asked, “Can we continue reading ‘In Darkling Wood’ please?”

Pupil voice

“Emma inspired me to write more and gave me the message that dreams can come true.” – Fran

“This has made me want to write my own stories at home.” – Luke

“Emma’s visit encouraged me to get out more books and read more.” – Elena

“It made me think – actually boys can be fairies too!” – Liam

“I learnt that if you want to be an author when you’re older you just have to use your imagination and believe.” – Spencer


By Laura Maclean

English Subject Leader & Library Coordinator

Sunnymede Junior School

Thanks Laura for taking the time to tell us about your author visit.

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