Thursday, March the 2nd, was my first World Book Day as a published author. I was invited to spend the day at Bro Hyddgen School in Machynlleth, mid-Wales. It was a really poignant day for me, as my little boy, Ned, would have been six years old on Thursday, had he not died last March.
Ned was an absolute fan of books and stories. He was reading well above what the school deemed his ‘reading age’, and he loved listening to stories and would be constantly making up his own stories.
So I decided that I would do the World Book Day event in his memory. My debut book ‘Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners’ has been dedicated to Ned, so taking my book to Bro Hyddgen school felt like a fitting tribute for his birthday.
Off I set, cauldron, magic wand, wooden spoon and potion bottles in the boot of the car. Arriving at the school I felt a tingling of excitement and anticipation. Having been a Primary School teacher for thirteen years, and having given it up as a profession as the stress and pressure caused me to have a breakdown, being able to go into a school purely to have a great time with the pupils is exhilarating.
The day was fantastic. All the pupils were dressed in a vast array of costumes ranging from Hermione Granger to one of the 7 dwarves. The atmosphere in the school was charged. The pupils were excited and bursting with enthusiasm … and all of this because of books; the pure magic of stories.
The pupils responded amazingly to my workshops. I read the part of the book where Grace-Ella mixes her first potion, Halting Hiccups. Her potion doesn’t quite go to plan and it results in her mother, Mrs Bevin, being stuck to the kitchen ceiling. The children then create potions using that most magic ingredient of all … IMAGINATION! They use my cauldron, large wooden spoon, potion bottles and magic wand to come out to the front to ‘make’ their potion.
It is so liberating not to have to explain the ‘lesson objective’, or have to discuss the ‘success criteria’ when I’m in a school doing a workshop. The pupils are free to use their imaginations and fly. Rhyme and alliteration fell naturally into their potions. There is no need for them to dissect a piece of writing to its bare bones and make a list of things they have to use for their work to be a success. Their imaginations will do all of that for them.
The ingredients for their potions ranged widely from a unicorn’s teardrop to Donald Trump’s hair. And of course, there was the expected great big dollop of poop thrown in for good measure. The children were being creative, they were having fun; their imaginations were fired and it was an absolute joy to be a part of it. To have children respond with such gusto not only to my book, but to myself as an author, was quite simply magical. Ned would have been very proud.
At 3.30pm, I left the school an exhausted but extremely happy author!
As it was my first World Book Day, I thought I’d share a few tips for surviving an event:
- Have an early night before your event.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day (my voice was a mere croak by evening!)
- Take props with you and get the children involved – children of all ages respond to something visual.
- Don’t over-plan/over-think your event. The main aim is to have fun with the children and to leave them all fired up about reading/stories.
- Be prepared for completely random questions to be thrown at you. Answer them truthfully – children are so good at spotting a fraud.
- Enjoy the experience – immerse yourself in the children’s enthusiasm, it feels great.
- Read aloud to the children, whatever their age. Listening to stories bring them alive and this should be timetabled into every Primary School’s week.
- Check timetables etc before the day so that you know exactly where you’re meant to be, how many children will be in a group etc.
- Don’t be nervous. A roomful of children can look a little daunting, but honestly, if you have fun, they’ll have fun. And kids are the absolute best audience you can have.
- Have an early night after your event … you will be exhausted.
And there you have it, my Top 10 Survival Tips for a successful World Book Day event. Now I can’t wait for next year’s…