Inviting an author to visit…

Andrew 'book signing' at George Heriots Sept 2010We get many letters from teachers inviting Andrew to visit their school. Two arrived on the same day this week, two very different letters.

Letter 1

(As far as we know we have had no previous contact with the teacher and she does not name the school.)

Hi Andrew
I am currently putting together activities for a School Book Week next March.
Do you have any dates free during the weeks beginning 4th or 11th March when you could visit us in (name of town)?
Look forward to hearing from you.
Regards

Letter 2

( No previous contact with teacher or school but we had been contacted by Kate, a School Library Service Librarian. This correspondent gave her name, position and the name of school)

Dear Jane,
Kate forwarded her email to you, so I hope you don’t mind me contacting you direct!
Kate visited our school recently and introduced one of your books to us. The children (and teachers) thoroughly enjoyed the story and so I was wondering whether your husband could visit our school? World Book Day is on 7th March next year – would there be any possibility he would be available then? Would I be able to ring you to discuss this date or an alternative if this one is not suitable? So many questions!!
Kind regards, 

Both invites are for the same week in March which has in fact been well booked up for some time, but decisions were easily made about how to reply. The first letter gets a simple but polite ‘No’. I’m afraid if you show no knowledge of or interest in an author’s books you are unlikely to get a visit. The second teacher has been offered an alternative date as it’s hard to say no when you know your books are enjoyed and appreciated. 

I wonder if these letters reflect back on the teaching of letter writing in school. We have had many children’s letters sent by teachers which have been written as a class lesson. ( I remember one lot which came out of the blue and didn’t even have a covering letter from the teacher). Some letters are short and formulaic, whilst others are more inventive and interesting to read. The few letter that have made their way from individuals via the publisher are special, as they have been written by children who really love Andrew’s books and it’s clear from their letters that reading and writing have not come easily. Real effort was involved. 

We made our children write ‘thank you’ letters by hand on paper for all their birthday and Christmas presents as they were growing up. It was not always easy but they got done and 2 lines was not enough! The turning point came for our second son when his godmother wrote a ‘thank you’ letter to him. He was so thrilled to receive a letter addressed to him in the post, to get the thank you and to hear her news, that ever since he has cheerfully set to and written idiosyncratic letters which have delighted the recipients. I wonder if children who get replies from Andrew feel the same. 

So if, as I suspect, few children write or receive letters at all these days how can we expect young adults to know how to write appropriately for any situation, or have any awareness of the impact their letter on it’s arrival. 

By the way, teachers take note, popular children’s authors like Andrew Norriss are in particular demand for Book Week in October and World Book Day in March so if you want a visit then you’ll probably need to book a year in advance to get the author and the day that you’d like. And it’s worth doing, as having a real author whose books you’ve read and enjoyed in your classroom can have a powerful impact on children’s enthusiasm for books and reading! 

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