24 October 2013
The Society of Authors has gathered evidence from school teaching staff about the importance of author visits in promoting Reading for Pleasure. Our findings show that it is necessary for author visits, school libraries and other literacy strategies to be recognised by Ofsted, school libraries should be protected and teachers would benefit from more support and training.
The Society conducted a survey from December 2012 to March 2013 and in total there were 163 respondents. Out of these, 162 schools had experience of hosting an author visit. We calculated that respondents had hosted over 1,471 author visits, of which 1,094 were in secondary schools and 377 were in primary schools.
- 99.4% (all those who had organised an author visit) considered author visits to be an invaluable enrichment that encouraged reading for pleasure, wider reading and creative writing. Visits are described as having ‘a profound and lasting impact’. All pupils were positively engaged including (and particularly) reluctant readers and those with Special Educational Needs. Teachers also detailed the benefit to their own teaching skills.
‘There is no doubt that author visits can encourage children to read for pleasure. The impact of one-off visits may not be sustained though. It will also need teachers to carry this work on. I believe that author residencies are the ideal for sustained impact. The work is vital.’ Survey respondent.
- The majority of participants commented that they would like to expand their provision and host regular visits and residencies for the benefit of pupils, but lack of funding prevented them.
‘If school library budgets are slashed any further it will put this crucial opportunity in a child’s education at risk.’ Survey respondent.
- There is little support and training for teachers. Secondary schools held the most visits as most were arranged by experienced librarians who could identify appropriate authors and develop funding strategies, but many of the primary respondents had only recently held their first visit or been appointed a literacy coordinator.
Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, has written to Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted's Chief Inspector, presenting this evidence in order to encourage Ofsted to aknowledge the importance of school libraries and validate this by making it part of their inspections process. Read the full letter
We asked some eminent children's writers what they thought about author visits in schools:
'With over two decades of first-hand experience regarding school visits, I have seen and learnt for myself just how much of a difference author and illustrator visits can truly make. Such visits inspire not just reading and writing, but also fire a child's imagination and lead to previously reluctant readers actively seeking out stories.'
Malorie Blackman, Children's Laureate and author
'I've been to literally thousands of schools during my long writing career and I can honestly say that each and every visit was a joyous experience - definitely for me and hopefully for most of the children too! I've been to struggling schools where few of the children are keen readers, yet at the end of each session the students have been happily buying or borrowing books, totally enthused. I think author visits to schools are a fail-safe way of engaging with young readers and encouraging kids who aren't keen on reading to give books another go. Nearly all major children's authors have trekked round schools and talked about their books, making children laugh, squeal, sigh and clap spontaneously, understanding at last that reading can be hugely enjoyable.' Dame Jacqueline Wilson
‘The results of the survey show that giving children the opportunity to meet an author has a huge impact on their reading habits, in many cases inspiring even the most reluctant reader to pick up a book. We hope these findings will encourage Government inspection teams not only to credit schools that implement such initiatives but also to acknowledge the vital role school librarians play in that implementation. To do so would lead to more schools welcoming creative practitioners into their classrooms and discovering the magic they can bring.’ Helena Pielichaty, author and Chair of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group
- Download the press release about the school visits survey
- Author Visits in Schools Helena Pielichaty, CWIG Chair
- CRB statement for schools
- Guide to Author Appearances
- Guidelines for Authors Visiting Schools
- Guidelines for Schools Organising an Author Visit
Illustration right by Sarah McIntyre