I was lucky enough to go and see both Michael Rosen and Andrew Motion talk at the British Library yesterday on poetry in childhood and both of their experiences of poetry when they were young. The talk, as is what you expect from two dedicators of changing the curriculum to support more poetry, focussed a lot on what children in schools are receiving now. One of the main points made was how little interaction both Laureates had with poets and authors in their repective youths and that they never had a writer visit their schools. They both agreed that this gave them a massive disadvantage. As they were saying this I couldn't help but think of all the authors our groups manage to get into schools to give students the opportunity to see what a real life writer is like. I can only imagine the impact that this has on the children that get to see these authors and have them enthusing them about the art of writing itself.
I know when I was young we never had a visit from an author either and there was always a sense that people who wrote books were either dead or were these great people who were so inaccessible that if I ever wanted to become a writer then it was something that would be very hard to achieve. Now I'm not saying it is easy to become a writer in terms of published work, many a writer will tell you that they have a whole file of rejection letters, but what I have come to realise is that authors are just like you or me. They are not inaccessible at all in fact quite the opposite. In my school library I try and get as many authors as possible to come and talk to as many students as possible. The comments I get back from the kids is amazing and you can really see the impact it has on their reading and their writing. So far this year our author visits are in double figures and when we run them we have people clambering at the doors to get in. The teachers all want their classes to see the author and its not to get a free lesson its because they know the impact that it has on the students.
The fact that the Federation brings so many authors to so many children is a massive achievement. Everyone that runs a session with children and authors knows the positive impact that it has, not only in the short term but also in the long term. There are so many different ways that author visits can influence people. Nowadays I am still enthused to go away and read an authors book and even to believe that maybe one day I might be a writer. If this is the effect on me then imagine what it is like for all the children to realise that becoming an author is actually an achievable thing and something they can strive towards.