The Challenges of Putting on a Children’s Literacy Presentation

I was recently asked by a school administrator to put on an Author Presentation for Children’s Literacy Day. Having written an early middle reader, a talk to third through fifth graders sounded like an excellent opportunity. What a learning experience!

Fight to Get the Details

As the first Literacy Day this school had ever put on, the details about what the organizer needed and wanted were hazy, and they kept changing. I assumed the woman in charge would let me know what she finally decided on once she figured it all out, but we all know what Felix Unger said about ass-u-me. Mistake. Even as the day approached, the emails I received were few and lacking detail.

If the school is unclear about what they want, take charge and tell them what you’re willing to do. You may help them come to a decision. At the very least, if what you are willing to do and what they want are two different things, telling them may force out additional details they “thought” they had already given you.

At first I was one of several authors giving a half an hour presentation. A week before the event, that changed. I was the only author giving a forty-five minute presentation twice the same evening to two different groups of students. When I arrived, I discovered I was one of four choices that the students would be assigned and was assured that, however long my presentation was, it would be fine and I could dismiss the students when I finished.  Then the administrator told me I needed to fill an hour and a half!

Prepare More Than You Need

Before the event, I worked to fill the original half hour and then quickly added a few thoughts for the extra fifteen minutes. When I discovered upon arrival that I had to fill an additional foty-five minutes, I had to wing it. Not a pretty site.

Even Young Audiences Need A Warm Up

When the kids took their seats, I jumped right in. I had arranged an interactive presentation and was surprised by how shy the kids were when it came to participating. They finally got into it at the very end of my original presentation, which, due to a lack of participation, only filled ten minutes! Had I warmed them up with questions and jokes and stories, they would have been ready to jump in and enjoy by the time I started asking for volunteers.

Understand How Kids Learn

I thought that an interactive presentation would keep the children from getting bored, but jumping around and shouting in the classroom was foreign to them, and it took the kids a while to get used to the idea. When I ran out of content, the school administrator rustled up paper and pencils and we asked the children to use the information I’d given them to write their own story. Writing an assignment and then reading it aloud was something they understood! I like to think they enjoyed my original presentation, but like good little students, they were comfortable with familiar “homework”.

Literacy Day was a fun experience, and I hope to do more Author Presentations for other schools. Next time I’ll come prepared. I’ll take control by telling the school what I’m willing to do. I’ll prepare extra content for last minute surprises. Warming my audience up will take priority, and I’ll be sure to include some traditional methods of learning.

Does anyone have experience with these types of presentations? I’d love to hear about what you did to ensure a fun and educational time for the kids.