Connecting with authors via Twitter

I have attended quite a few of our Melbourne TeachMeets where I enjoy meeting and talking with other like-minded educators and I always come away inspired by the presenters. Until today I have never presented as I didn’t think I had anything really interesting to share. However, Celia Coffa (@ccoffa) encouraged me to simply ‘share my story’. So today I finally did…

As a teacher librarian, one of my favourite things about Twitter is that it has allowed me to connect with authors. I love reading about their latest books, following their book tours or what they might be writing about through #amwriting or simply enjoy reading their tweets. Some authors I follow and glean bits of information from their tweets and admire them from afar, but over the past couple of years I have connected with a few authors and even enjoy regular comments or chats with them. This naturally flows into my library classes and to our LRC Blog where I share tidbits of information with my students that in turn allows them to connect further with their favourite authors.

After connecting with Felice Arena (@fleech) on Twitter and hearing him talk at a Professional Development evening earlier this year I was inspired to use my Twitter account to tweet comments from each of our Year One classes to him about his new Sporty Kids series. The students loved the fact that Felice tweeted back almost immediately and I think Felice was thrilled to hear from his readers! We have continued to tweet with Felice as he has released new books in this series and the students feel as though they know him and love borrowing his books. 

Little did I know that this Twitter connection with Felice (and my love of AFL football) would also lead to connecting with authors Michael Wagner (@wagstheauthor) and Adrian Beck (@adrianjbeck) and being asked if they could trial their brand new show ‘Kicking Goals For Readers’  at our school! This fabulous performance in our hall filled with 530 excited students from P-6 was a highlight of our year with footy, books and reading sharing the limelight!

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, Adrian Beck returned the last week of term two to present me with a 2015 Indigenous football and suggested I might like to use it for a reading challenge. Before I knew it, Adrian had whipped out his phone to film a promo video for the “Yeo-low Medal”. This was to be our equivalent of the Brownlow Medal, but for the Best and Fairest Reader. I designed a Reading Scavenger Hunt based on a football field and the Yeo-low Medal was off and running with 205 students signing up. Adrian supported, encouraged and entertained us with videos along the way. Yesterday he came to school to draw the name of the winner and present our Yeo-low Medal. There were 57 students who had shown wonderful reading stamina over the term, hoping their name would be selected. Once again reading was the winner!

I am extremely grateful for the totally unexpected and amazing experiences that Twitter has brought our way and how it is a conduit that enables me as a teacher librarian to bring students, books and authors together…

This is my presentation for the TeachMeet with links to blog posts about ways we have connected with authors via Twitter…

Finding the Enthusiastic Reader in Your Reluctant Reader

After fellow teacher librarian @SJbetteridge shared on Twitter today that she has started blogging at The Bookmarking Librarian, I came back to re-visit my neglected blog here. I found this blog post in Drafts that I had written back on May 4th!!  My excuse – it was a busy Term 2 and I tend to put my blogging energy into our school library blog.  I’ll try to be more consistent this term….

Might I say that something very exciting for our school happened after attending this event, but I can’t blog about that until August 12…

What a treat to attend the Finding the Enthusiastic Reader in Your Reluctant Reader evening offered by The Kids’ Bookshop last Thursday evening. It was such a valuable opportunity to listen to three highly respected and popular children’s authors – Sally Rippin, Felice Arena (@Fleech) and Michael Wagner (@wagstheauthor).

The Kids’ Bookshop began with some great tips for reluctant readers…

  • Let reluctant readers choose their books – encourage and empower them to read all types of material not just books
  • Tap into a reluctant reader’s interests – sport, music, lego, art, etc
  • Book tie-in to films are a great lure for reluctant readers
  • Graphic novels are great for visual readers, especially older reluctant readers
  • Series based books make it easier to choose books – just choose the next one! Series also keep the momentum going for a reader
  • The bind up strategy is a great idea for reluctant readers – all books together in a BIG book. Sense of achievement
  • Develop readers beyond the reading experience – websites, blogs, author visits

The authors then shared valuable thoughts about reading and how they go about writing for reluctant readers in their books…

Felice Arena

  • Use an authentic voice and don’t talk down to the reader
  • The importance of the reader ‘connecting’ with the book e. Garry Lyon helped “footy-ise” Specky Magee by providing the footy facts kids like to read
  • Take the story off the page and bring books to life for you students using drama, book trailers, hashtags in Twitter about the book your class is reading etc
  • Make the reluctant reader a participant reader – involve them in dramatising the text
  • It’s not just the reluctant reader but what about the ‘distracted’ reader? Multi-tasking while reading and not in the moment

Michael Wagner

  • As a writer you need to know what age you are inside – Michael is 10, Felice is 12 and Sally is 6. Their books reflect these ages
  • When writing for boys be gritty not pretty, be witty, use sharp economical prose, write with intensity eg humour
  • Maxx Rumble is his unconscious homage to Asterix that he loved as a kid – the puns and plays on words (Felice is the same in Farticus Maximus)
  • The importance of screen-free time for kids to nurture creativity

Sally Rippin

  • Billie B Brown is her rambunctious side and Jack is her quieter side. The ‘Hey Jack!’ books allow boys to explore their emotions
  • Sally uses Dr Suess and Richard Scarry as models for her books – how to draw the child in and connect with them
  • The importance of reading with your child and the bond you share
  • Reading to your child is a gift you can give to them
  • Don’t lose the oral tradition of storytelling – so powerful! See Sally’s “Story Peddlers” initiative bringing back the art of the roving storyteller with pop-up performances on a bike!

The new insights I have gained into these particular authors and their books are invaluable. They empower me in my role as a teacher librarian to help connect our readers to books that are the ‘right’ book for them to help them on their journey to become lifelong readers.

It was also a delight to meet both Felice and Michael face to face and not be limited to the 140 characters we often converse in on Twitter.