Monday, 5 June 2023



In a bookshop last week, I bumped into two sisters. They’d recognised me after I’d visited their school during World Book Week. It was such a surprise since we were miles from home and all on holiday! There was much excitement from both parties, confirming to me the importance of school visits - getting into schools to reach and interact with readers.



But did you know, that in 2023 only one in five children said an author had visited their school, either online or in person?

A Twitter thread from the National Literacy Trust and this chance encounter prompted me to write about school visits for today’s Picture Book Den post. The National Literacy Trust researched the impact of author visits in schools (both online and in person). They found that children who attended author visits were more likely to enjoy reading and writing in their free time. I’m often asked about school visits - what should they be like, how to prepare for them, how to get them and do you have to be published to offer them? So, I thought this might be a good opportunity to champion school visits, and share a bit about how they can look.

You can read the full National Literacy Trust report here: Author visits in schools, and children and young people’s reading and writing engagement in 2023 | National Literacy Trust



School visits can in person or online. They can be with a whole school, with a key stage, with groups of classes or a single class… or a combination of all of these! The school that has booked the visit might have a purpose for your appearance in mind – to encourage reading for pleasure or to link with a curriculum topic - or your visit might be to celebrate the launch of your book. They can vary enormously, but this is good news! It means there is no set way they should be. If you play an instrument, why not make this part of your session? You might be confident drawing, at home with a puppet or prefer talking with slides… play to your strengths and what you feel comfortable with. It’s important for children to see there are lots of different kinds of authors, just like there are different kinds of people. And it's important that your school visit reflects you.

Whatever the theme of the day, I usually begin with some fun facts and photos about me and my books on a screen. Consider including things like; previous jobs, childhood photos, your writing inspiration, your writing space… it might feel boring to you, but it’ll be fun and different for them. If there’s no tech available, I do the same with props to keep the children’s attention.

In workshops, I always try to plan an activity that sees the children take away something physical, and something that can be expanded on in class should the teachers wish to do so. I also make a big effort to ensure the sessions are interactive and engaging, building in a strong hook so that children can’t wait to start and will remember the day for a long time afterwards. I tend to structure workshop sessions like this:

– Warmer

– Hook and shared activity

– Independent activity

– Share and tell

– Q&A/ Quiz

Here are some examples of the activities I’ve led in the past:

          making sunny-side specs

-          making lemur tail twisters (think tongue twisters written on tails!)

-          biscuit tin crime scene

    design and make a biscuit rocket

-     create your own story character

-     'creative compost' idea gathering workshop

-    create your own graphic novel

-    puppet making

Whatever you decide, it always nice to end a workshop with a show and tell session. It’s unlikely you’ll have had chance to speak to everyone individually, so asking them to talk with the person next to them, and then a few feeding back to the whole group, gets around this problem nicely. I use my story TV and microphone, for this! It’s a bit of encouragement to share ideas, plus, who doesn’t want to be on TV?!




It takes a lot of planning to ensure a school visit runs smoothly. This could include all or some of the following;

– communication with the school about logistics, payment and terms
– organising a book sale and liaising with a local bookshop
– making posters to advertise the event
– booking transport
– planning and resourcing

I also try to build children’s excitement and anticipation, by sending schools activities and material in advance. You might be the last author the children meet for some time – you might be the first or only author they meet! Something that works nicely is sending ahead a writing competition to be judged on the day. You might be able to think of something that links with your book or theme for the day.

I try to arrive around an hour before the event starts to set up and familiarise myself with my home for the day. It’s important for me to leave plenty of time because I often bring lots of resources that need unloading and because schools are busy places – you sometimes don’t know the finer details of where you’ll be based until you arrive and even then, plans can change. Also, if you’re going somewhere you haven’t been before, leave in some buffer time for traffic, delays, parking (or the lack of it) and getting lost! Better to have time to spare than be panicked, I think.

Giving children the opportunity to buy books can be lovely for all concerned. Some schools request a book signing, at the start or end of the day. If there’s a local bookshop to organise this, that’s great. If not, I set it up with a pre-order system so that I can source books from a seller locally to me. If your event is online, you might be able to liaise with a local bookseller and send signed/ dedicated bookplates.

After the event, I make sure to thank the staff for their help and hospitality, both in person and email. I usually follow up with a blog post and photo share, if I have been given to permission to take photos. This is something to check in advance.

In case you’re interested, a few years ago I wrote a post for My Book Corner with even more detail about my school visits. You can read that post here: A Guide to Author Visits by Clare Helen Welsh - My Book Corner]


It’s a great idea to have your contact and event details on a website or on social media, showcasing what you can offer, including a price list. If you need advice on pricing, have a look at the Society of Author guidelines: Fees for author school visits - The Society of Authors

Think about what makes you and your visits special. I travel by authormobile, so I try to share photos of this because it’s different. Author, Cara Matheson, takes her cockapoo, Scout!

As well as photos, you could also share testimonials from your events to help get the word out. If you’re a published author or illustrator looking to do more events, you could also try contacting organisations such as Authors Aloud, Authors Abroad, Contact An Author, Reading Rocks, National Literacy Trust .







I am keen to dispel the myth that only published writers and illustrators can do school visits. I know firsthand how inspiring it can be for children to see the journey as opposed to just the finished product. Any creative with a passion for what they do should feel able to share that if they want to.

Sarah Dollar is a writer and poet looking for representation and a home for her picture book manuscripts. I asked her to share her school visit experiences:




“Mildred’ is an (as yet) unpublished character I created with my son, Hugo, in mind. He has severe food allergies and Mildred suffers from hayfever. My thinking was that it would open the door to meaningful conversations about allergies that might lead to more understanding amongst his peers.

When Allergy Awareness Week came round, I saw an opportunity to sidestep the gate-keepers and seek my own reward. I’m not an overly confident person, but I suffer flashes of over-the-top enthusiasm. I collared his teacher, “I don’t know if you have anything planned for Allergy Awareness Week yet, but I’d be happy to read a story to the kids in Hugo’s class?”. To my surprise, and vague horror, she jumped on it! Before I’d left the playground she had given me a day, a time and four classes to present to! Gulp!

I watched many Youtube videos, such as Joseph Coelho’s Poetry Prompts. I sought advice: wear something bright, take props, be prepared to be silly.  I practised taking questions (from anyone willing to play along) and read the story out loud - a LOT! I was nervous and met with a whispered chorus of ‘It’s Hugo’s mum!’, but the teacher introduced me as a writer. The children were excited.

My nerves settled quickly. I got a few children to help make Mildred’s soup concoction in a giant pan with imaginary ingredients. They laughed in all the right places. They engaged! Having repeated the session with another three class groups, I left the school - brimming. I floated out to the car park and stashed my props.

I did sessions for a nursery down the road and when poetry day rolled around I was approached by another local school. The kids enjoyed it. And I loved it. I may only have a few school visits under my belt, but the reaction from the children I've met has left me in no doubt - this is where my future lies.”


What an inspiration, Sarah is! I hope her experiences inspire you and give you permission to contact a school or bookshop or library for storytelling, if you wish. It doesn’t have to be pre-published or even published story. Why not take along a selection of your favourite books to share?

If you’d like to find out more about Sarah and her visits, she’ll be featured in Write Mentor’s Final Word newsletter very soon. You can sign up for that here: Home - WriteMentor - for all writers of children's fiction (



If visiting a school has already been on your radar, I really hope this article and the National Literary Trust research have inspired you to take the plunge. In case you’re still unsure, have a read of these testimonials. School visits really do make a difference!


“The workshop was amazing! The children were engaged from start to finish. Such a great way to get such young children to believe in themselves as writers! The children haven’t stopped talking about where they are going to travel in their rocket!”


“The boys in Year 6 were so very proud of their writing and shared it first thing with their teacher the following day who was blown away. Thank you again, it was a wonderful afternoon.”


“All children were totally engaged and enthralled throughout the workshop. Clare was fantastic with the children, bringing plenty of props to excite and provoke creativity from the group. The children were well guided and fully involved throughout the session.”




Sarah was born in London and grew up in Devon, where she lives now with her partner and their three (very) energetic children. She writes short stories, picture books, chapter books, poems and even cryptic crossword clues! She was longlisted for the 2021 Stratford Salariya Picture Book Prize and was included in the finalists' showcase for Mindy Weiss’s Picture Book Party. Both pieces have since been published. You will find her writing in places such as The Dirigible Balloon and Parakeet and Paperbound Magazine. She has also contributed to the spoken word event Book Jive Live. Find her on Twitter @SarahLCDollar.


Clare Helen Welsh is a children's writer from Devon. She writes fiction and non-fiction picture book texts - sometimes funny, sometimes lyrical and everything in between! Her latest picture book is called 'Sunny Side Up,' illustrated by Ana Sandfelippo and published by Little Tiger Press. You can find out more about her at her website or on Twitter @ClareHelenWelsh . Clare is represented by Alice Williams at Alice Williams Literary.

No comments: