What is Nevada Reading Week?
More than thirty years ago, Bill Abrams, Nevada State Department of Education, with the help of a group of teachers, conceived the idea of a week-long celebration of reading to be observed in every school in the state of Nevada. The purpose was to encourage a love of reading by giving children opportunities to read and be read to, activities and competitions to engage both avid and reluctant readers, and theme-related experiences involving both the school and the community. Traditionally, the school library has been the center of Reading Week activities.
Teachers today are busy, stressed, and often more concerned with test scores and preparation than they were when the concept of Nevada Reading Week was created. Yet a time to celebrate reading as something to be valued and enjoyed is even more important. We know that there are children—and adults—who read willingly and with pleasure, and that there are children who struggle with reading; but there are also those who are able to read who do not read. In 1985, Becoming a Nation of Readers included the following: “Increasing the proportion of children who read widely and with evident satisfaction ought to be as much a goal of reading instruction as increasing the number who are competent readers” (Anderson et al., 1985, p. 15). It’s even more true today.
Your Nevada Reading Week celebration can be a month-long series of activities, a week of special events, or even just a few days, not necessarily consecutive, through which reading for pleasure and fun can be encouraged. It need not be elaborate; but it does take planning and cooperation, no matter how it is celebrated. The Timeline is intended to make planning easier and more coordinated. The Idea and Activity section of this website is intended to give you tips and ideas --- not only ideas for a Nevada Reading Week celebration, but ideas that may help both librarians and classroom teachers celebrate reading all year long,
About Nevada Reading Week
The Nevada Reading Week Conference, a weekend conference for teachers and librarians, presents speakers with an emphasis on encouraging students to read for both pleasure and information. Sponsored primarily by the Nevada Department of Education, its original purpose was to provide teachers and librarians from both school and public libraries with ideas to celebrate Nevada Reading Week, a statewide celebration of reading, and to suggest theme-related activities. Over more than thirty years, the conference program has come to include keynote and breakout presentations by noted children's authors, illustrators, reviewers, and children's literature experts. Workshops include topics related to technology, science, history, music, art, and math, all with connections to reading and books. Teachers and school librarians may choose to earn one inservice or recertification credit; or with an additional charge, participants may elect to earn one Continuing Education credit from the University of Nevada.
The Nevada Reading Week Project committee is an entirely volunteer committee, made up of librarians and teachers (both active and retired), one or more representatives from the Nevada Department of Education, and one or more Washoe County librarians. Nevada Reading Week Project is a non-profit organization and receives no funding from any outside source.
2016-2017 Nevada Reading Week Project Committee
(Listed in alphabetical order)
Marilyn Bennett, Hug High School; Karen Booth; Anna Brueher, Silver Stage High School, Lyon County Library Coordinator; Janet Carnes, Sparks High School; Phyllis Cates; Bobie Delaney; Fran Edison; Becky Ellis; Holly Esposito, WCSD Library Coordinator; Patti Ewoldt; Ellen Fockler; Lanny Hershenow; Dennise Howard; Jerri Kerns, Gabbs School; Valerie Lane; Sheila Linn; Linda Mitchell, Library Services; Mitch Mitchell; Maureen Morton, LRC; Shar Murphy, Honors Academy of Literature; Connie Poulton; Kristy Reynolds, Sepulveda Elementary; Tami Ruf, North Valleys High School; Kristin Ryan, Washoe County Library; Martha Schwalbe, Reed High School; Heidi Slater, UNR; Tyna Sloan, Echo Loder Elementary; Marie Tully Scilacci, Kate Smith Elementary; Beate Weinert, Washoe County Library; Susan Williams; Cindy Wood, WCSD Library Services
Getting Started With Nevada Reading Week Projects
How to begin:
Create a committee. Begin early: October is not too soon! (Many schools require that the dates for Nevada Reading Week be set prior to the beginning of the school year, to be included on the school's yearly calendar.)
A committee needs a chairperson, whether it's the school librarian or a teacher. And the chairperson often needs to be a cheerleader, too, encouraging others to participate and convincing them that reading for pleasure is important.
A committee needs members. Bring teachers together! And don't forget the music teacher, the P.E. teacher, the art teacher.
A committee needs support. Involve your school administrators from the start.
A committee should reflect all aspects of your school. Include teachers from both primary and intermediate grades, or (at the middle school level) from several departments or content areas.
Time frame: will this project be just one week long? Will you celebrate a Reading Month? Will activities be distributed over a longer period of time, rather than being scheduled all at once or within a week's time frame?
Keep the demands of the curriculum in mind. A few well-planned activities in which everyone can participate are better than a string of activities that are hard to accomplish with today's busy classroom schedules.
When will your Nevada Reading Week be celebrated? While March is traditionally Nevada Reading Month, be flexible; plan it when it can be successful.
Create a brief outline of the goals of your Nevada Reading Week, and use it to guide your choices of activities.
Think about and formulate some expected outcomes. Will you conduct a contest that recognizes individual readers, or emphasize group achievement?
How does the Nevada Reading Week theme influence your goals or your choice of activities?
Test schedules and other mandated activities will impact Reading Week activities. Consider all such schedules, at all grade levels.
Check for major conflicts... the science fair, a music program, CRT tests.
Try to use scheduled times (such as a regularly scheduled library time) for activities to minimize interruption of classroom routines.
Will you involve community members? Businesses? People with special expertise who are willing to share it with students?
How will you include parents and volunteers? How can you involve them in planning?
Activities: use the Nevada Reading Week theme to plan.
If teachers have a voice in planning Reading Week activities, they're more likely to "buy in" and participate.
Plan activities that teachers can incorporate into all aspects of their curricula. Tie into math, P.E., social studies, art, music, and science lessons. (There are many short, varied activities in the ABC portion of this Idea and Activities section.) Reading Week can be fun and interesting for the whole school without drawing time away from lessons.
Keep activities short. Except for a reading competition, each activity should be easy to complete in a day or less.
Think through each activity and plan it carefully and well in advance. You may need to supply teachers with materials, a packet of suggestions, a schedule of all- school activities, or other information. A few well-planned activities are better than a lot of random suggestions!
Be flexible. Encourage teachers to adapt the committee's ideas to their class needs. Give good instructions and helpful hints, but don't insist that every teacher do things the same way.
If you plan a book fair in conjunction with your Nevada Reading Week (or Nevada Reading Month), try to plan the book fair for a week other than the week when reading activities and programs are planned. A book fair usually takes over the library, requires volunteer help, and needs all your energy to make it successful. If you're running a Book Fair, you won't have time to participate in other Reading Week activities, read-alouds, visits by authors or community leaders, or all the special events that make Reading Week fun for everyone.
Time Line for Planning a School-Wide Program
Some schools celebrate Nevada Reading Week with a week of special events and activities; others celebrate for the entire month. In some communities, Reading Week is a community celebration, involving business and community organizations. In others, it's a school-wide celebration based on theme-related activities. Reading Week activities often include some type of reading competition, perhaps between classes or grade levels, with recognition for every book a child reads; visits from members of the community; special times to read, such as a school-wide D.E.A.R.; read-alouds by parents, friends, or community leaders; special lunch-time read-alouds; and a culminating event, such as an author visit or assembly. Whatever your choices, a Reading Week celebration should be fun for both students and staff, should provide a correlation to the curriculum (generally not resulting in a grade) and should encourage children to read and to love what they're doing.
Form the committee!
Select the dates and time frame for your celebration. (Check for conflicts)
Announce the theme and dates to faculty and staff.
If you choose to invite an author, storyteller, or other professional presenter, make your arrangements early and confirm funding for the author's fee. Some authors require booking as much as a year in advance, and even local authors and storytellers need several months' advance notice. (See the Author Visit tab.)
If you have an active parent group or PTA and/or Partner-in-Education, be sure to involve them.
If you plan to have guest speakers or guest readers, create a list as one of your first priorities, and ask them well in advance.
Nevada Reading Week Activities and projects --- things to do ahead
Plan the contest far enough in advance so that the winning bookmark(s) can be chosen and reproduced in time for your Nevada Reading Week celebration... at least a month to six weeks ahead.
Be sure that teachers and students are aware of any rules or deadlines well ahead of time.
Cut tagboard bookmark blanks (8 ½ x 2 inch is a good size.). Provide every class with enough blanks for every child. Using the Nevada Reading Week theme, children can design bookmarks of their own.
Teachers should choose three (approx.) of the best entries to submit to a school-wide contest. Winners should be judged, if possible, by several teachers or community members. Decide whether you'll have one winner per grade level, one for the entire school, or several honorable mentions. To recognize as many children as possible, use bulletin board or wall space to display their efforts.
Reproduce the winning bookmark(s) for all students, either by sending them to the district Print Shop or using the copy machine.
Plan a decorate-the door contest, poster contest, or similar classroom art activity.
A decorate-the-classroom-door contest can be theme-related or book-related, but reading should be the focus. Door decorations or posters can be judged and prizes awarded, but it is often enough just to display them. Plan a brief activity that will allow students to see the doors in different wings of the school.
Plan bulletin boards in the Multipurpose room.
Enlist students and teachers, or use the bulletin boards to keep track of student reading activities with cutouts that are theme-related. (An Ellison machine comes in handy!)
If students record books they have read on a cutout that goes with the year's theme, you can either use bulletin boards to show the progress of a grade-level competition, or to track progress toward a school-wide goal. For example, some schools set a goal of a given number of pages read. Principals have been known to sit on the roof, wear a costume, or kiss a pig if the students reach the goal. Generally, a class-level or schoolwide competition works best because every reader can participate in the fun and take part in winning.
Examples of theme-related displays:
Since this year's theme is "Reading Rocks!" your displays could be related to many forms of music; or you could include geology and mining, "rocks" of all kinds. Choose books with either music or rocks as a focus. (Byrd Baylor's Everybody Needs a Rock is an oldie-but-goody!)
Create a tentative schedule for read-alouds, special events and guests.
Brainstorm about possible guest readers. Community members, parents, even elected officials are often willing to be guest readers. Do you know someone on a local sports team? Are there parents who would be willing to come and read to a class? How about local TV celebrities? Perhaps the mayor, a city councilman, a county commissioner, or other elected official would be willing to come. Guest readers don't necessarily have to be from outside the school; the clinical aide, the computer assistant, the school secretary, the custodian, and, of course, the principal are all good candidates. Whoever you choose, schedule their appearance in the library or classroom. Some people like to choose or bring their own books; others prefer that you choose a book for them. Always have two or three books to choose from on hand, even if the reader has said that they'll bring their own. (They may forget!) And make sure that the reading choices are age-appropriate for the class.
Plan at least one family-oriented event if possible. If your school holds occasional family nights, plan one around the Nevada Reading Week theme.
Possible events for a family night:
Student performances - Readers' Theater, a music program, poetry readings
Students could create themed poetry and read their own, or perform shared readings of poems for two voices. Fleischman's Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices is a book of poetry designed for reading aloud by two children. Mary Ann Hoberman's books, including Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems and her You Read to Me, I'll Read to You series would be good choices.
Bring a local author to a family night. Provide copies of his/her books for sale and autographing. Books can be ordered through the publisher or through a local bookstore.
Book Fair: Plan your book fair to coincide with a Family Night.
A major Family Night event could include stations in the Multipurpose Room or in classrooms at which different activities or games are available. Include a Reading Corner, a dress-up station, a make-a-book activity, and art or craft projects, especially if they are connected to a book or to the Reading Week theme -- teachers may have other great ideas that they've used in a classroom setting.
Include a Book Walk / Cake Walk with a musical theme. Create a large circle with numbered musical notes in bright colors. Children begin by choosing a note to stand on. As music is played, children move forward around the circle until the music stops suddenly. When the music stops, draw a number from a box; the winner receives a small prize (perhaps a cupcake?) and moves out of the circle, as another child takes his/her place.
Remember to include food in the planning! Families turn out if food is involved. Pizza, a spaghetti dinner (if you have the facilities necessary) or even just dessert will make the evening complete.
So..... the committee has met, a date and time has been chosen, plans are made, --- now what?
Don't try to do everything yourself. If you have planned several activities, give committee members responsibility for one activity.
If you're planning an author visit or a performer for whom payment is required, consider applying for grants to help with the cost. Nevada Humanities, Wal-Mart, Kohl's, Target, even NVEnergy have given school-related grants in the past. But don't wait; these grants often require weeks and sometimes months to process. Do some homework before you apply, research application deadlines, know how much you will need, and be able to justify the expenditure in terms of how the performance will contribute to learning at your school.
Is there food involved? For example, you might want to plan a "picnic" on the school grounds as a culminating activity (weather permitting). Or the winning classroom in a reading competition might be awarded a pizza or ice cream party. Some schools plan a special lunch with the principal for top readers in each class. This is the time to get parents involved. Decide whether you have funds to provide food for a small group, or for a class, or ask for donations from your parents' group. Not everyone has an active parents' group, though, so look for alternatives – some businesses may be willing to donate food or supplies.
Send items to the Print Shop as necessary (bookmarks, certificates, etc.) Be sure to allow enough time so that they'll be back before your Reading Week celebration begins.
Confirm speakers or special events. These might be speakers in individual classrooms or larger groups. More details below about scheduling an author visit ---
Make sure everyone is aware of the schedule. Give every teacher a schedule of activities, post one in the faculty room, and use email reminders as necessary.
Use your library automation system to print bibliographies of appropriate materials in your library, keeping in mind both the year's theme and activities that will support the curriculum. Include both fiction and nonfiction.
Are you planning to award prizes? Will you give small individual prizes for reading achievement, award classroom prizes, or give prizes to top readers in each class? Small prizes like stickers or pencils are usually affordable. Paperback books make great prizes, too. If your teachers use book clubs in their classrooms, consider asking them to use some of their "points" to buy books to use as classroom prizes during Reading Week. If you have a book fair earlier in the year, you may be able to accumulate some free books to use as prizes. But prizes don't have to be tangible; a special time in the library, a special lunch with the principal or the librarian, or any special privilege can be every bit as effective.
Some local businesses will donate prizes. Books, stuffed animals, baseball caps, seasonal items, and a multitude of other items have been donated in the past. Any requests for donated items, though, should be made at least two to three months in advance for the best results.
Activities can include costume days, read-a-T-shirt days, poem-in-my-pocket days, anything that makes the week a celebration.
Prepare bookmarks or reading certificates in advance. Include "reading coupons" or records used by students to keep track of what they read or to verify minutes spent reading. (See examples on the following pages.)
Use your Ellison machine to prepare themed cutouts on which students will record reading progress. You can create more as needed, but you need to have a supply for each classroom before the week begins.
Recruit volunteers to help with any special activity that requires extra help. Don't wait until the last minute to do this! This might include putting up those bulletin boards or keeping them current, help displaying student work or posters, or extra help at any group function. Extra help is often needed at any function where food is involved, or when art projects require individual attention.
It's a good idea to present an agenda for Nevada Reading Week at a faculty meeting. Do it well enough in advance so that you can make changes if necessary.
Prepare cover letter to parents, including the agenda or schedule of activities. (See sample letters on following pages.)
Scheduling an author visit, speaker, or performer:
There are several different kinds of speakers you might schedule for Nevada Reading Week. What you choose to do will depend on the time your teachers have available and a number of other factors---including funds available.
Will you arrange speakers in the classroom, or an assembly (or grade-level assembly) for a large group?
Classroom speakers can be almost anyone who can bring something interesting or relevant or related to the theme to the classroom. The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension service has programs for children, for example, or Nevada Humanities has a speakers' bureau and sponsors children's Chautauqua. Members of local sports teams, or of the University of Nevada sports teams, might be willing to visit, whether they make a formal presentation or not. The local weatherman might be willing to work with a class on a weather-related project, or you might know parents or grandparents who would be willing to do a special art project with a class. Perhaps you know someone who could speak about music, rock collecting, recycling, animal care, or any of a multitude of topics with ties to children's books.
If you choose to hire a speaker, a storyteller, or plan an author visit ---
First, consider your budget. Most well-known children's authors now charge from $1200 to $3000 for a full day's visit, which typically includes three presentations. Some authors will also include an after-school event for students and parents, which is often fairly informal. It's also necessary to budget for plane fare, lodging, and meals for a visiting author from out of town. Often, a visiting author will divide his/her time between two schools, if they're close enough to make travel time minimal, making it possible for schools to share the cost.
Be sure your plans are clearly outlined for your teachers and staff, and don't forget to get your principal's approval before planning anything!
Set a date and make arrangements well ahead of time. Be as flexible as possible about the date; well-known authors book tours as much as a year ahead of time. Even local groups must be booked months in advance.
Will you have a single large all-school assembly? Will you divide students into two or more groups by age? If you have a speaker for a full day, most presenters will do at least three presentations, often by age group.
Where will you assemble the students? Will the presentations take place in the library, the multipurpose room, or some other area?
Traveling groups such as Poetry Alive do wonderful large-group presentations. Some will do half-day presentations as well. Ane Carlos Rovetta, a naturalist and marine biologist who is also a talented wildlife artist, has made many school visits in northern Nevada. If you are willing to coordinate your school visit with other schools or even to organize a group of school visits, such groups or individuals are more willing to make the trip and the shared cost is often less.
Consider a local author. Remember, though, that school visits are often necessary supplements to an author's income. Don't expect an author to come for free unless he/she volunteers to do so.
Consider other kinds of programs or presenters. What about a magician or a musical presentation? Contact the Washoe County Library, too; branches may have programming ideas and know of performers who will come for little or no cost.
Always have a clear, written agreement about cost, including the honorarium, if any, and any other costs that your school will be expected to pay. Create a contract if necessary.
Never schedule a group or author that you know nothing about! Self-publishing is common, and unless you have seen the author's work or have recommendations from other schools or librarians, you may not know what to expect of a presentation.
The program is booked, the date is set. Next....
Arrange for payment for a visiting author or presenter. If you've booked a well-known author or presenter for whom school visits are a part of their regular income, you will need to follow your school's regulations to process a check. For example, Washoe County School District's Business Office requires an Independent Contractor form, a W-9, and an invoice to process a check. The check request cannot be submitted until after the presentation, and takes three weeks to a month to process. Check with your school secretary or with the Library Coordinator's office for information about your school or district policies.
If funds are coming from a source other than a school budget, such as grant funds or funding from a parents' group, be sure that the funds are either deposited in a school account so that they can be properly processed, or that the parents' group is willing to pay the author directly.
Involve your teachers and students in planning for the author visit. Important: be sure students are familiar with the author and his/her books.
Provide teachers with bibliographies of books by or relating to the author. Include websites, biographical information, even pictures. Create an author study display in the library.
Read aloud in the library from the author's books.
Encourage students to read the author's books, or teachers to read aloud in the classroom, especially if the author is known for chapter books or novels.
Talk with students about appropriate questions for the author. (Authors must hear "where do you get your ideas?" over and over and over; the most frequently asked question, and one to avoid, is "how much money do you make?")
Make the author's books easily available. You may want to buy extra library copies in preparation for the occasion.
Reading Goals and Competitions: Rewards
Some of these could be all-school events; others are more appropriate to reward a small group of students who have achieved their reading goals. Note: if you plan an evening event, consider making it a family affair. Otherwise, transportation becomes an issue for students.
Movie party in the library: have the kids wear pajamas and bring pillows. Offer popcorn and hot chocolate.
Ice cream sundae party: ask parents to help by supplying ice cream and a variety of toppings (and by helping with the party). You may be able to talk to local grocery or specialty stores about donating the ice cream and toppings as well.
Ramen party! Heat a big coffeepot full of hot water, and either have kids bring their favorite Ramen or cup of noodles, or supply them. (Costco has Ramen packs, quite inexpensively.) This could be a lunchtime activity or an end-of-the-day snack.
Karaoke party - Borrow a karaoke machine, enlist a parent or a teacher to act as the MC, and have students bring or suggest music that they'd like to sing (and dance) to. Or provide a selection of music on an iPod, if you're aware of what your students like. Use the multipurpose room (less likelihood of disturbing other classes).
Game day parties - students bring in board games or electronic games to play, or take over the computer room with extra time for games.
Have a parade! Borrow rhythm sticks or maracas from the music department. Students who have reached their reading goals parade down the halls, making lots of noise, while other students line the halls and cheer. (Simple and cost-free!)
If you have an active Parents' group, you might want to plan an outdoor, all-school barbeque as a culminating activity. With your administrator's help, choose a day when the lunch period can be extended. Involve parents in bringing chips, buns, salads, and cookies; purchase hamburgers or hot dogs. Most places have rental agencies where a large barbeque can be rented; you'll need a dad with a truck to transport it back and forth. The actual barbeque will require some organization, with parents to serve food and a parent or teacher manning the barbeque, but if the weather is nice and the parent group is willing to participate, it can be a very special event for all concerned. (Consider your school population if you decide to try this. You may want to schedule two lunch periods instead of one, to compensate for the extra time needed to serve students.)
Princess Principal - If students reach their (combined) reading goal as a school, the principal dresses up as a princess (complete with a crown). Of course, the principal could choose any other costume as well.... the more outrageous, the better. He/she might also choose to wear a costume that represents the school mascot.
Do avoid "stunts" that are essentially demeaning, no matter how funny they may seem in the planning. A whipped-cream pie in the face is slapstick fun to imagine, but not such a good idea in practice.
After the Nevada Reading Week celebration is over:
Send thank-you notes or letters to committee members, parent volunteers, business participants, guest speakers, and prize donors.
A general thank-you-for-participating to the faculty is appreciated ~ a big bowl of popcorn at a faculty meeting or a miniature candy bar in each mailbox, for example.
Hold an evaluation meeting of the Reading Week committee or an evaluation session at a faculty meeting to record ideas for future reading weeks/months. Make sure to include the things that went right as well as those that need improvement.
Why invite an author to visit? A visit from a "real" author provides an opportunity for children to associate the name on the title page with a person, with what they look and sound like and think about. We encourage students to become strong, expressive writers; state standards require that students become effective users of written and visual communication. Hearing about writing from published authors can make quite an impression on students of any age. An author visit is also a motivation and a focus for reading. Depending on the author chosen, there may be opportunities for connections to biography, geography, mathematics, science, art or music in addition to language arts.
Because advance planning is so critical to the success of an author visit, it's essential to start early, often as much as a year in advance. If that's not possible (and school year calendars may make it very difficult), at the very least, begin to plan as the school year starts for a visit in late winter or spring. Most author visits require an honorarium, and if the author is not a local author, there will be costs for travel, lodging, and food. There will be a time commitment , not only on the date of the visit but in terms of preparation time for teachers and the librarian, and time in the classroom to introduce and promote the works of the author. The first visit, then, should be to your school principal or administrator.
Before you issue an invitation to a children's or young adult author, look at sources of funding and determine how much you will need. Authors set their own honorarium (fee) for school visits, and many do not post fees on websites. You may need to inquire about fees for several authors before you schedule. Inquiring about the fee does not obligate you to hire the author. Some authors will send a personal answer; others use booking services; still others will book visits through their publisher. Fees will vary from about $400 (beginning authors) to as much as $3000 per day. Sometimes fees are negotiable, but don't count on it. Don't forget to include transportation (usually airfare), lodging and meals. Transportation costs may also include carfare or taxi fare from the author's home to the airport, luggage fees, and other miscellaneous costs. A caution: if you will pay a per diem cost for food, set a maximum amount, usually the same limits set either by your school district or by the Nevada Department of Education (currently $37 per day -- $5.50 for breakfast, $6.50 for lunch, $15.00 for dinner.)
It is very important to find out, as well, how many appearances per day an author is willing to do. Most commonly, authors will do three presentations; some are willing to add a fourth presentation if requested. Occasionally, an author will do three student presentations and an after-school or lunchtime workshop with teachers. Most authors are willing to autograph books, but you'll need to talk with the author in advance about when and how they'd like to do this. Some like to autograph books in advance, while others are willing to do so right after the presentation or even after school.
Funding sources can include parent/teacher organizations or booster clubs, book fair funds, school-wide fundraiser funds, fundraisers organized and managed by the school librarian, or grant funds. If you decide to apply for grants, you'll need to do some research ahead of time and make sure that your request is something that a funding organization typically will be interested in. Before you apply, you'll need to know what author you've chosen, approximately when the visit will take place, and what you intend to accomplish by having the author visit. Research possible grants and make note of application deadlines.
Regardless, you should have a contract signed by both the visiting author and your school administrator. The contract should specify the date of the performance, the number of performances, the honorarium, and any other costs that you will be responsible for. Many school districts require a signed Independent Contractor form and a W-9 form prior to payment. Make sure the author knows when to expect payment; if the check request must go to the District business department, payment may take as much as 30 days.
If the author is willing, you may be able to share an author visit with another school. Some authors will divide their time between two schools, doing two presentations at each; some will do two presentations at one school and a third at the second school. In either case, schools can share in the cost of both the honorarium and other related costs.
You may want to sell copies of the author's book(s) for autographing, buying them at a discount and selling them for list price. Any profit from such sales will help offset the cost of the author visit, but usually will only account for a small part of the total. In addition, any funding resulting from the sale of books will come in after the visit, and you will need to have funding to cover the entire cost in place by the time the visit occurs. If you decide to do this, you may be able to order books from the publisher at a discount or work through a local bookstore. In either case, be sure to confirm that you will be able to return unsold and unsigned books after the event for credit. To order books from the publisher, first check with the author, or with the publisher's website, for information about the publisher's book-ordering policy. Contact the children's marketing department. If you provide an order form for parents and have students preorder books, you'll have a better idea of how many to order. Order only a few extras for sale on the date of the appearance. Although you'll be able to return unsold books, your school will be responsible for the cost of return shipment. Don't send the pre-ordered books home before the author visit; keep them where they can easily be accessed for autographing when your visiting author arrives.
In some cases, you may be able to partner with a local bookstore. Usually, the bookstore will offer a discount, although not as much a discount as that received from the publisher. However, the bookstore will usually help to estimate the number of books to order, take care of the ordering process, deliver the books and pick up those to return.
Most authors will also sign pre-owned books, not just those sold for the appearance. But don't ask for other kinds of autographs. Have students use a sticky note to put their name on the book if they'd like the autograph to be personalized. The time saved will be considerable, and the author will appreciate not having to guess at the spelling of student names.
Because test schedules take precedence to almost anything, make your first step a check of district and school test schedules. Be sure to take other special projects into consideration, too. It's difficult to compete with a science fair or an all-school fundraiser. Talk first with your administrator, then with your staff, but don't forget the parents' group or even your Partner in Education once a date is selected. Authors who do school visits often book their tours in advance, so you may have to have more than one date in mind when you invite an author to come.
Plan for transportation from the hotel to the school and back, for breaks between presentations, for lunch for the author. Consider a pot-luck luncheon or lunch with teachers in between presentations. Be sure to check with the author about dietary restrictions.
Involve your teachers in planning the schedule of presentations, once the day is set. Decide what groups will attend and where the event will be held. Don't just assume that teachers will follow a schedule that you create; there may be reasons to select or to avoid certain times.
Selecting an author to invite:
For nationally known authors, check out websites – Sharron McElmeel's McBookworks site is a good place to start http://www.mcbookwords.com/. Try Catherine Balkin's site, http://www.balkinbuddies.com, or websites for major publishers of children's books, such as Penguin Putnam Young Readers http://us.penguingroup.com/static/html/yr/tl.html. Most children's authors have websites of their own, and will include information about whether or not they're willing to do school visits.
Often, an author's website will provide contact information. Some publishers of children's books also book author visits, and some authors prefer that you make contact through the publisher or through an agent. Again, the publisher's website is often the place to start. Try to select an author whose books have been circulated in your library – books children will be familiar with.
Important: Students should be familiar with the author's work. It's a horrible experience for both author and audience to arrive at a school where students don't know who he/she is or what books he/she has written. Provide a packet for each teacher containing biographical information about the author and a list of his/her books and their availability. Make sure you have extra copies of the author's books available for both student checkout and classroom use. Prior to the visit, teachers and classes could share one or more of the author's books in their classroom, then decorate the multipurpose room depicting their favorite stories, characters, or themes. Students might also create their own versions of the author's works (a type of fan fic) to present to the author during his/her visit. Help students brainstorm pertinent, thoughtful questions to ask (preferably not "Where do you get your ideas?" and definitely not "How much money do you make?")
Preparing students for an author visit is a great opportunity for collaboration between teacher and librarian. Begin with the author packet for each teacher, and meet with teachers in grade-level meetings to explore options. If the author has several books, each grade level might take one book to focus on, and create extensions or projects around the book's theme. Using Byrd Baylor's Everybody Needs a Rock, students selected rocks of their own from home, brought them to school, and used them as the focus of their own poetry. An elementary school chose several of Bruce Hale's Chet Gecko mysteries, read them in class, discussed what makes a mystery, and then wrote mystery/detective stories of their own. Give teachers a chance to match their projects to their curriculum and the needs of their class.
Take lots of pictures during the event (but be sure to get permission from the author before doing so). Pictures of the children involved in the presentation, pictures of the author, even book covers will make a nice follow-up display and a way to talk with children about the event and about what they gained from it. Continue to read aloud from the author's books, too, and use book covers as part of the display. If children created writing or class projects either before or after meeting the author, they can be displayed in the library. Often, authors appreciate a follow-up note with pictures as well.
If you chose to sell books to students for autographing, there will be some bookkeeping to do. Be sure to allow funds for the cost of shipping back any unsold books.
Don't forget follow-up thank you notes! Include everyone who participated in the planning, preparation, and implementation of the visit…including your school custodian. Sometimes it's a good little touch to put a snack-size candy bar in every teacher's mail box, or a big bowl of popcorn or another treat in the faculty room, especially if your author visit is a part of your Nevada Reading Week celebration.
A follow-up meeting of your Nevada Reading Week committee or of those involved in planning the author visit should be scheduled a week or so after everything has been completed. Don't wait too long, or everyone's attention will be focused on the next thing, not on what has just been done. Talk about what went well, what went wrong, and how you might plan for another year. Discuss financing, ways to prepare students, projects that were done in the classroom, and what students took away from the author visit.
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Theme: Camp READ - Nevada, USA