Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘school visits’

Happy Halloween: Cool stuff I saw this week

Welcome to Thomas Dale High School?

Welcome to Thomas Dale High School?

It’s odd that I like high school visits as much as I do – especially since I loathed my own experience. But what can I say? I run into hilarious librarians, teachers who dream up good projects, and (most importantly) amazing young people all over the place.

Here’s some proof.  These are some shots I took today of my shared day at Thomas Dale High School and Meadowbrook High School, both in the Richmond area.

 

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass re-written as a picture book by high school students! Great way to study impact of audience on writing style...

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass re-written as a picture book by TD high school students! Great way to study impact of audience on writing style…

Don't be fooled. They aren't  mild mannered librarians...

Don’t be fooled. They aren’t mild mannered librarians…

...they are zombie lovin' librarians...

…they are zombie lovin’ biblio-freaks

A truck loaded with an English teacher's requested titles at Meadowbrook HS. So many diverse voices!

A truck loaded with an English teacher’s requested titles at Meadowbrook HS. So many diverse voices!

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Winnie the Pooh recycled into a new art form at Meadowbrook

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Loved the inky black on this one…

 

Discarded books recycled into an new art form at Meadwobrook!

Abstract!

The library team at Meadowbrook HS.

The library team at Meadowbrook HS.

 

 

Author Visit or School Book Experience?

On Wednesday, I did my last school visit of the 2013-14 school year at Stonewall Middle School in Manassas, Virginia. They’re author visit gurus over there, rolling out the red carpet with so much attention to detail that I didn’t really want to come home. (Sorry, Javier.)

On the drive back to Richmond, I got to thinking about the many great times I’ve had meeting teachers, kids and librarians this year – and how much I’ve learned about how they build collections, how they connect with their staff, and how they have to navigate budget cut threats all the time. I feel really lucky to have met so many inventive, non-shushing, hilarious Bookish Ones this year.

What I especially loved about Wednesday at Stonewall, though, is that it was a “best practices” event for me. All the best parts of school visits were rolled into one. They pulled together an author visit so that it wasn’t just a giant assembly. Instead, they created a book experience for the kids and teachers that stretched beyond the single day that I was there.

So, in honor of the amazing job Stonewall did yesterday, here’s a little cheat sheet on School Visit Greatness, with a special thanks to Linda Mitchell, Hope Dublin,Laurie Corcoran, and Diane Hilland  who hosted me so expertly.

Good planning: I despise paperwork, but I have to admit that it helps keep things straight. Linda Mitchell contacted me early (an October email about a visit in June.) We were clear on what books I’d be talking about and what grades. She stayed on top of all the contracts, W-9s, and travel and lodging arrangements. We each had everything in writing. I’m told she also stalked me on Facebook to keep up with book news as it came up, which was especially fun.

photoWelcome your author and give her time to know your school:  Since I’d be speaking early in the morning, and DC traffic is the abomination that it is, I got to Northern Virginia the night before. Nothing makes a hotel feel friendlier than a little bucket waiting for you at the  hotel desk. Mine had the essentials, not the least of which were cookies. It also had driving directions to the school from the hotel and my schedule for the next day. (It was labeled PLOT TWIST because the lineup had been tweaked a tiny bit.  Librarian humor, people.)
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Ms. Mitchell also arranged for reading specialists and fellow librarians from her district to join us for dinner at a quiet restaurant downtown. This was a time to kick back and ask them about their school and students, to find out the books they were reading, and to share ideas for new titles for their shelves. They also showered birthday love on me with chocolate and other treats, at which point I  knew we’d be friends for life.

The next morning, they had coffee, fruit, and coffee cake waiting at school. The  principal and several teachers dropped by to say hello. I should add that all of this was happening on a day of SOL testing, which ranks up there with Wisdom Teeth Removal Day. You would never have guessed it from the calm feeling in the building.

IMG_1945Think perks:  As we all know, parking lot real estate is a hot commodity on a campus. You have to rate to get one of those spiffy up-near-the-door spots. Ha! When I got there, they’d staked out a spot and labeled it “For Award Winning Authors Only.” It was funny – and I really appreciated not having to lug books and a computer a long way in heels.

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an activity for Milagros: Girl from Away

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Activity based on a quote from Tía Isa Wants a Car

Prepare your students: To be honest, I’ve been to schools where no one has read my book. This really changes the impact of the visit. It’s still fun, but not nearly as meaningful. Stonewall students, on the other hand, read several of my books and did activities around the literature ahead of time, including readers theatre of Milagros and The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind.  They even used my picture book, Tia Isa Wants a Car for a writing and brainstorming activity – very cool for a middle school.

Plan something unusual and meaningful for your particular student population. Mrs. Mitchell asked me to read Tia Isa Quiere Un Carro in Spanish, since so many students at Stonewall are Latino, a significant number recently arrived. For the non Latino students, the English text and pictures were scanned and projected on the large screen.

Have the tech worked out: They had the screen, monitor, microphones, etc. all worked out for me. All I had to do was hand off the junk drive.

BdayCard

A birthday card from a student with my same last name! (She wrote a great poem, too.

Be organized about books sales/signings:  Books were pre-ordered by teachers and students, and each had a sticky with the person’s name. I was able to sign them all in my down time.

Author care 101:  My podium was fully stocked with little bottled water, mints, cough drops, and copy of all the books I would be talking about. At lunch time, they whisked me away to lunch and we had a good hour or so to sit down and regroup before heading back for the afternoon sessions.

From the author’s perspective, this experience was heaven. Linda Mitchell and her team tell me they’re considering putting together a teaching session on how to plan visits, including the nuts and bolts of funding and scheduling – traditionally the big stumbling blocks. I hope they do it. Keep your eyes peeled.

Looking forward to meeting more of you in 2014-15! Until then, happy summer and happy reading!

Cariños de, 

Meg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A True Bienvenidos

A warm welcome!

A warm welcome!

I spent a wonderful morning at Good Shepherd Episcopal School visiting with students from Pre-K through the eighth grade. It is so exciting to find schools like this where  the students are so obviously honored and loved.

Favorite comment:

On hearing that my tía Isa was actually a terrible driver:  “Your next book should be Tía Isa Goes to the Emergency Room.

Three best questions:

My fellow dinersDo you ever find that you accidentally put pieces of one story in another story?

How do you know if your idea should be a book?

(With a worried look.) Is your tía Isa still driving on the streets?

Most touching event:

Chef Sue (who cooks homemade from organic produce every day for these sweet kids) made me “lechon” (pulled Cuban pork), white rice and black beans, so that I could enjoy un buen almuerzo. We even had merengues for dessert.  (A big hit. “Yum! You got this cookie right,” said one of the third graders.)

A Cuban feast for school lunch!

A Cuban feast for school lunch!

Chef Sue!

Chef Sue!

Best slang I taught them:

¡Pin Pan Pun! (rollaway bed)

Happiest coincidence:

Señora Cardounel, the  Spanish teacher, is from Cuba, too. We chatted in Spanish and swapped lots of stories. I hope she’ll visit me soon.

The fabulous Mrs. Dysart

The fabulous Mrs. Dysart

Thank you, Ms. Dysart and all the lovely faculty and students at Good Shepherd! If I had to go to school again, I would want to go to a place just like Good Shepherd.

School visits: An Open Book Literacy Foundation

Back to DC, one of my favorite cities, this time thanks to An Open Book Children’s Literacy Foundation which gives Title 1 schools in the District access to books and authors. (Feeling charitable this season?  They make an excellent choice for your philanthropy.) So, it’s second graders and eighth graders for me today. I think we’ll make our own “Tía Isa” cars out of foam with the younger ones, since this gives me a chance to channel my inner craft geek. (I can’t help it. I love office supplies and the smell of Elmers Glue). Thrilled also to start a new Hope Tree in the DC area with the older guys.

Raymond Education Center, here I come!

What color would your car be? Where would you want your car to take you?

What color would your car be? Where would you want your car to take you?

Do children get cuter than this?

I visited Colonial Trail Elementary School last week. It’s nestled behind a behemoth mall, but don’t be fooled. This school is a gold nugget in western Henrico County, and fourth grade teacher Tiffany Graves goes out of her way to bring literature alive in her room. Looking forward to thinking of ways of working together next year!

Look at this good looking bunch.

Fourth graders in Ms. Graves class