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Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Bookette's Guide to Planning a Book Week

On Saturday Sophie of So Many Books, So Little Time asked me a very perceptive question. Were authors visits to my school fun or really stressful? The short answer was both.
I promised a while back that I would write a post on How To Plan a Book Week and hopefully this will show why it can be a challenging as well as brilliant part of being a school librarian.

Where to start planning (4 - 6 months early):
First of all, you need to get permission from your line manager and head teacher.
I'm very lucky that both are very supportive of the library's role in wider so school life but for some librarians this is the first battle.
Secondly, you need to secure funding for your Book Week. This academic year the Head Master said I could have £500 for events. A full day visit from an author is a minimum of £250. So naturally the money the school sets aside can only go so far. I spent way more that £500 on the two Book Weeks for this year. The good news is that in next year's budget £1500 has been allocated to Book Week Events. One might say (if one wasn't modest) that I made this happen through a lot of hard work....
The next and really important thing is to work out in the academic year when the Book Week should take place. There are hundreds of different things scheduled for the children to take part in through the year so finding the right time is crucial. Often librarians like to tie book weeks in with National Children's Book Week in October or World Book Day in March. Next year because of other strains on the timetable my March Book Week is being moved forward to February. Once the date is set make sure it is recorded by all the departments you will be working with. The worst possible thing that can happen is finiding out that the students have been booked to go on a trip or something.

So you have the OK from above, the money and the dates. What's next?

You need to decide which students you are going to target. Is it a Book Week for the whole school or like me do you divide the school in half? This works for me because my cohort of students is so wide.
The next step is to work out which type of visitors you want the pupils to work with. You may decide that Year 3 would benefit from working with a performance poet, Nursery with an interactive storyteller, Year 5 with a popular author and Year 1 with an illustrator. If you have the money available, you could investigate all the options. But more likely, there will be a limited budget so I normally invite two visitors. This year for the lower school it was a storyteller and an author/ illustrator. It is really important to look into the different types of workshops and talks that authors offer.

Different sessions have included:
  • Introducing their book, reading from it, discussing how they came to be a writer and then a book signing
  • Talking about a number of different books, getting the students up the front and completing little challenges
  • Talking about ways into writing and modelling how to come up with interesting ideas
  • Demonstrating how an illustrator draws a character and then taking students through that process step by step
The possibilities are vast and so you need to decide what you want the students to get out of the session.
My priority is always a buzz around reading and the encouragement to try a new author, genre.

Once you have your aims. You can start to contact the authors who tick your boxes. There are lots of ways to contact authors in this social networking society. Often they have a website with a special section for school visit information. You can also use www.contactanauthor.co.uk or write to the author's publisher.

As I said before the sessions vary, you need to speak to the individual author to find out the following things:
  • How long do they like their workshops to be an hour? half an hour? Is this flexible?
  • How many sessions do they like to fit in during one visit?
  • How big do they like the audience to be? Some like huge audiences of 200! Some say 30 is more than enough!
  • Where do they like sessions to take place? I prefer all things to take place in the library but some authors who offer movement and literacy sessions need a big hall-sized space.
Once you've confirm what they offer, you can of course think about it and get back to them. Let's say you are happy with everything they offer. Now you must make sure that they are available for a suitable day in your week. This is where you should check the pupils' timetables to make sure you won't have to interrupt double lessons like PE or technology. (You do not want to upset other members of staff).

Then you confirm the booking. The author will send you a formal letter with the details of the booking. They may need you to collect them from the station on the visit morning. This should all be detailed in the letter. You want them to arrive with time to spare before the first session. Traffic and unexpected delays should all be anticipated.

So let's say now that you have your two authors chosen and booked.

For Book Weeks I always have a Book Fair which is provided by Scholastic. I open this after school three nights of the week so parents can bring their children and buy books. You must book this very far in advance because around those key bookish dates suppliers can be very busy.

1 - 3 months before Book Week:
You need to organise a supply of the author's books to be sold on the day to harness all that enthusiasm they have generated.  Make sure you discuss this with your finance department. They do not like surprises in my experience. I order books on sale or return from my usual supplier. You can get books heavily discounted from the author's publisher for these types of events or better still involve your local independent book shop and they can sell the books on your behalf. Make sure you order more than enough books. I have never run out of copies to sell but can you imagine the disappointment if all but one child were able to buy a copy....

Now all the major things are organised.

3 - 4 weeks before Book Week:
You should contact the author's publisher a few weeks before and requests posters and book marks for display. Get these up around school, in classrooms and do a huge display in the library, you want to generate hype.

Plan out the timetable for the week and distribute to all class teachers, senior management and display it in the staffroom. Give people chance to say this isn't going to work so you can rejig things if necessary.

Plan any additional in house activities. Quizzes, puzzles, competitions etc and all the prep that goes with these.

2 weeks before Book Week:
Write home to parents and tell them about the lovely things you are planning for their children. Send the letter with a book order form so you can collect money in early and make sure you have lots of book sales.

The week before:
  • Email the authors and let them know how much the children are looking forward to seeing them.
  • Double check to see if they need any specific resources - flipchart, pens, pencils etc
  • Get all the resources together and store them in one place
  • Remind staff about the plan of events  - you are relying on teachers to bring their classes on time
  • Remind pupils to bring in money to buy books
On the day:
  • Have books beautifully displayed on tables
  • Have water ready for author
  • Collect the author if necessary (leaving plenty of time)
  • Welcome them and give them a chance to use the facilities
  • Offer a drink - tea or coffee (water should already be out for them where they will be working)
  • Talk them through the day
  • Thank them for coming
  • Have lunch with them (school should provide this)
  • Enjoy all the sessions - you should introduce the author at the beginning and then (with their permission take lots of photos)
  • Take money from pupils for books and making sure the signings are orderly (trampled authors are not happy ones)
  • Make sure you have the author's invoive - they need to be paid
  • Take author back to station if necessary
  • Tell them they were brilliant
After the event:
  • Bring in cakes or biscuits for staff to thank them for helping
  • Get students to provide feedback - this can be verbal or a more formal questionnaire
  • Email the author with student feedback
  • Enjoy seeing the author's books borrowed again and again
  • Use the photos you took in a newsletter or for a display
  • Give yourself a pat on the back
  • Start thinking about the next Book Week
So I think I just about covered everything. As you can see, there are lots of things to think about and during the actual week your feet won't touch the ground. But the sessions will be great if you did your homework and you will get to see the result of all your planning for months to come.

9 comments:

The Book Bug said...

Wow. That is one hell of a lot of organising. Great post- it was really interesting to find out how I am not cut out for the job of school librarian because I am a very impulsive forgetfull person. ALl of this would preobably make me lose what is left of my sanity. How do you go it?

Luisa at Chicklish said...

This is absolutely fascinating, from the point of view of someone who's been on the other side of this (as an author, I mean - I wish we'd had Book Weeks like this when I was a student!)
What a lot of organisation and hard work. I'm going to remember to be even more grateful to the lovely librarians who invite me to their schools!

Rhiana said...

Wow, lots of planning! It makes me feel bad for moaning at having to come up with a bookish costume(though I'm usually only presented with the letter the night before it's needed and with some fantastical requests!)Thanks for the post Becky, I guess us parents sometimes forget about all the planning teachers/librarians and other school staff actually do for our little darlings.

Sarah said...

Fab post Becky! I had no idea how much work must go into organising a book week - I wish we'd had a librarian like you in my school! :o)

Shweta said...

Here I was thinking that librarians had an easy job. :) That's hectic and stressful but sounds fun !!

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

I don't remember asking you that... Though I had wondered! I never realised that it would be so expensive. No wonder my school library rarely had author visits.

fantastic post!

Ria- The Beaucoup Review book blog. said...

Wow! This is really interesting- and I now want to ask my school to organise one! Thanks for this! Ria xx

Caroline said...

Wow thanks for this post Becky !
You are doing an amazing job, must be amazing to meet an author and be part of a workshop *suddenly wanting to go back to school* !

Nina said...

Great post and very interesting. As you probably already know I am in college to become a teacher and I hope that when I have my degree I can organize something like this for the school.
I just copy and pasted this, because it's really useful. Thank you Becky!