Activity 1: Attend Newcastle Writers Festival Children’s Program
Topic: The value of children meeting authors and illustrators
In April this year, I had the opportunity to attend the Newcastle Writers’ Festival with my 8 year old son and 6 year old daughter. The children’s program focused on presentations for primary school children by Australian authors and illustrators.
The sessions we attended were:
- Samantha Turnbull, author of a new book series called “The Anti-Princess Club”, explaining why she wrote this book series for girls aged 8-12;
- Katrina McKelvey read her recently published book “Dandelions” and explained the process of how a picture book is made; and
- A high energy and humorous presentation by Stig Wemyss, an experienced audio book narrator, including books by Andy Griffiths.
All three presenters were engaging and the children were keen to participate and answer/ask questions. More information about each session is included in the Appendix at the end of this post.
What did I learn?
By attending the festival, I was able to observe the positive impact on kids of meeting authors. I also gained immeasurable insight into the Newcastle literary community. I learnt that the children’s program requires a lot of organising, planning and commitment from the local literary community and volunteers. I learnt how to improve reading stories from hearing authors read their own books, and understand the importance of illustrations and how to use these to engage children with the story.
How was the activity relevant to my professional practice as a librarian for children?
As a children’s librarian, organising and promoting library events is an important task. Events provide opportunities to invite the community into the library and showcase what the library has to offer. At the festival I was able to observe what types of events children respond to and ways I can improve my skills and activities for presenting books to children.
Were any gaps in my knowledge revealed? How might I fill those gaps?
I was unaware of the extensive network of people involved in advocating children’s literature in Newcastle. I have signed up to receive updates from CBCA Newcastle sub branch. I was also unaware of the opportunities for local author visits and illustrator workshops for schools. The key to filling my knowledge gaps in this area will be continuing to attend local literary events and make contacts. Volunteering at events will be an effective way to increase my knowledge and network. I plan to register as a volunteer for the 2017 Newcastle Writers Festival children’s program.
Topic: Value of children meeting authors and illustrators
“Nothing inspires kids to read and write like interacting with a real, live author or illustrator” (CBCA NSW Branch).
Meeting authors and illustrators is an exciting experience for children. A book personally signed will be cherished forever. Interacting with authors and illustrators makes a tangible connection between books and where they come from, and inspires children that they too could be writers (Lund, n.d.). My 6 year old came home from the festival and started typing!
After the festival, Katrina McKelvey posted to her blog:
“I love the buzz that fills the air at children’s literature events. The kids reported back to me with wonderful comments and then returned to school with a spring in their steps.” (McKelvey, 2016)
The Children’s Book Council of Australia – NSW Branch values author visits so highly that a specific program is available to help fund author visits in disadvantaged areas (CBCA NSW Branch).
I would recommend parents and teachers taking up any opportunity for children to meet an author or illustrator– the benefits are wide reaching for all types of children. The experience will inspire avid readers and writers, and is an excellent way to encourage reluctant readers.
Bolinda. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.bolinda.com/aus/search/narrators.aspx?/1/888E42AA-EE70-425D-BEDF- 2DF946F7196E/1/9/1/1/1/1/1/38/654
Lund, D. (n.d.) Benefits of author visits. Retrieved from: http://deblund.com/debs- services/author-visits/benefits-of-author-visits/
McKelvey, K. (2016). The Newcastle Writers Festival – Day 3 – Primary school groups. In Katrina McKelvey: Children’s author. Retrieved from: http://katrinamckelvey.blogspot.com.au/2016/03/the-newcastle-writers-festival-day-3.html/
McKelvey, K. Katrina McKelvey: Children’s author Retrieved from: http://katrinamckelvey.blogspot.com.au/
Newcastle Writers’ Festival. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.newcastlewritersfestival.org.au/
The anti-princess club. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://antiprincessclub.com.au/books/
The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) NSW Branch Inc. (n.d). The CBC2U Program. Retrieved from: http://nsw.cbca.org.au/data/files/cbc2u/2016/CBCA_NSW_Branch_CBC2U_ProgramInformation.pdf
The 52 Storey Treehouse image. Retrieved from: http://www.audible.com.au/pd/Children/The-52-Storey-Treehouse-Audiobook/B00N4YBSSM
The first session we attended was presented by Samantha Turnbull, the author of a new book series for girls aged between 8-11 called “The anti-princess club”. This session had 30 students in the audience from year 3. Samantha gave an enthusiastic and inspiring presentation with a clear message that fairy tales mislead girls about their aspirations for life. Samantha’s series focuses on four best friends who form a club with the motto “we don’t need rescuing” (Turnbull, 2015).
The second session was presented by a recently published children’s author, Katrina McKelvey. Katrina is also the president of the Children’s Book Council of Australia – Newcastle sub branch, and co-ordinated the children’s program for the festival. During the session, Katrina read her new book “Dandelions” and explained the process of getting a book published – from the author’s initial idea through to the copy on the shelf. This was a small group (20) with Katrina welcoming participation, questions and discussion from the children.
The final session was a presentation by Stig Wemyss who has narrated over 100 audio book for Bolinda, including Andy Griffiths’ books. This was a highly entertaining presentation including humour and audience participation to engage the young crowd of 50 students in years 5 and 6.