Monday 28 December 2020

Virtual Visits

Until 2020, I'd never done a virtual author visit. Until this year, I never even did videocalls with friends, because I wasn't comfortable with the technology! But with the Covid-19 pandemic, many things have changed, and this has been the year that I've embraced the technology, and started doing virtual visits. 

As a children's author, I've been visiting schools since 2003. I believe it's worth doing anything that gets children excited about reading. All the research shows that reading for pleasure has the biggest impact of any factor on a child's life chances. And the personal interaction and connection of an author visit can engage them and get them excited about reading in a way that nothing else can. 

Over the years, I've met many children who never liked books before, and thought reading was for other people, not them – but then got it during an author visit, and now couldn't stop. I've met children who had struggled to write a single sentence, but went on to write books of their own. Sometimes I've heard from them years later, telling me how the visit inspired them. It's clear that it was a turning point in their lives.

I wasn't sure if a virtual visit could have the same kind of impact. But I do the same thing on a virtual visit that I do in person: I talk to the children about stories. I share my favourites and I hear about theirs. And it becomes clear to them that books are for EVERYONE, and that everyone can be a reader. And they see that authors are people like themselves, which helps them to see themselves as writers, too; people who have stories of their own to tell. 

It's been brilliant to see the impact of the virtual visits I've done this year, even when children were isolating at home.  I am so glad that technology gives us a way to keep the interaction and connection going, and to continue inspiring children to read. So THANK YOU to all the teachers, librarians, schools and festivals that have organised virtual visits with me this year.  And for anyone thinking about organising one, and wondering if it's worth it – I absolutely believe that it is!