Monday, 30 March 2009

Elaine Forrestal's tips for first-time authors on working with children

Ok, so you've published your first picture book and you've been invited to run a workshop or talk with a room full of young children. You're not a teacher, you're not a librarian and you dropped out of acting school - so how do you prepare?? Elaine Forrestal, educationalist and award-winning children's author has some pointers!

Young children love to be read to. But when there are twenty five – or more – of them you can’t just read from the book in the same way as you would with one or two. It’s vital to make eye contact with as many or them as possible, and to keep scanning the group so that you are aware of the first signs of waning concentration.
Over-dramatise when you read, especially if there are some students who are not paying attention. Look for places in your text where you can shout, whisper, pull faces or dance about.

Once you have finished reading the book, get them to talk to you about it. This can feel a bit chaotic at first, but if they all want to talk at once it’s a good sign. Just field as many questions as you can, giving answers that you think will interest the whole group, not just the questioner.

If no one says anything, it’s time for some lateral thinking.
This is where the activities come in. Be well prepared beforehand with all the necessary equipment for the students to:

*Write their own stories
*Draw their own illustrations
*Dramatise your story – a few simple props will get them going. Ask for volunteers to take on the rolls of the characters. You will probably have so many that the play will need to run through more than once.
*Turn one of their own stories into a play, a song, an action rhyme that they can all perform together.

There are dozens of things you can do. Just use your imagination. The first couple of times are always the scariest. After that you will love working with young children. They are so spontaneous and enthusiastic about everything. And you will quickly find out which activities work best with your particular book. Don’t be afraid to use them over and over again.

Click here to check out Miss Llewellyn-Jones by Elaine Forrestal.

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