I can still vividly remember the day the Lynne Cherry, the author/illustrator of The Great Kapok Tree came to visit my elementary school. It has always been my dream to bring an author/illustrator to my school for my students to meet, so when I finally had the chance to host Judy Schachner thanks to a partnership with our amazing local & independent bookstore Parnassus Books, I knew I needed to make the event meaningful and unforgettable. Unfortunately, due to the winter weather Judy’s flight was cancelled and we ended up having a snow day – however we were able to host Bruce Hale a few weeks later. Even though we weren’t able to have Judy visit, I still want to share some of the things I did leading up to the scheduled visit.
1. Build excitement!!
Don’t assume that just because YOU are excited, everyone else will be, too. You must build the excitement. To do this, I enlisted the help of a witty teacher to write five clues about Judy Schachner, one to be read on the morning announcements each morning for a week. Each day, every class had the opportunity to submit one guess as to who the special visitor was. The first three classes to guess correctly won an autographed copy of one of her books. This not only built excitement in the students but it also got the teachers talking & excited, too. Even our cafeteria staff wanted to know who the author was!
2. Create contests
I ran two contests. One was a bookmark decorating contest. I gave the students blank bookmarks (just cut paper into a rectangle) & had them decorate it with the theme of Judy Shachner’s books. The art teacher helped judge the bookmarks and the winner received an autographed copy of one of her books and I also made color copies of the bookmark and gave them out to students as they visited our library. The second contest connected to Common Core writing and research standards: I gave students the opportunity to write a short biography and introduction of Judy Schachner. The author of the winning introduction was going to read his introduction in front of the school before Judy came out on stage. He was also going to get an autographed copy of one of her books.
3. Promote the books
Of course our library has every copy of SkippyJon Jones but I wanted everyone to be reading her books like crazy! So I requested every single one of her books from our public library. I made these available for teachers to borrow and read to their class. This helped free up our copies of books for the students. Teachers simply used a sign out sheet to borrow the books so I made sure none were lost.
4. Publicize the event
If I weren’t a school librarian I could probably work in PR. I love sharing the love of the library with everyone I meet and that includes making sure school officials and the local community understand the value in our school libraries. I made sure to invite our Director of Schools, Director of Communications, my bosses and other VIP’s in our district. Hey, if they don’t know what we’re doing – how can we expect them to value us?