Over the last two weeks I have gone from doing my very first school visit, with the lovely Jo Clarke and her Chatterbooks group at Whitchurch C of E School, to being a veteran of FIVE sessions! In the penultimate one at Whitheath Junior School, I even talked in front of the whole of years five and six, which felt like a lot of children… But I was helped SO MUCH by Gita Ralleigh’s brill Chatterbooks group who gave an introduction to the book, complete with costumes and scripted outline, and then asked a whole lot of fabulous questions during the rest of the session.
At points over the two weeks it was a little nerve-wracking. Just in those five sessions, I already feel like I have experienced every technology hitch possible. And that is thanks to the dreaded apple laptop – whose ports, programmes, and even a specially formatted usb stick that was supposed to be Windows compatible – were a total nightmare with the school’s PC systems. But on the plus side that meant I had a chance to do the talk twice from printouts, the second time with random slides popping up at intervals to help me out. I have also learnt that I need more props to combat the ever temperamental powerpoint technology.
Two things which went down very well, were a film clapper board that I took in for the last couple of talks, and my zoetrope. A zoetrope is a Victorian animation toy. The Chatterbooks groups were quite small and so I was able to do some drawing with them, making animation strips and then playing them back in the zoetrope straightaway to see how they looked. This was so much fun, and the children came up with such creative stuff. It’s a shame it would be difficult to do such a hands on workshop with bigger group, because it went down so well as an interactive element. I know I’ll be able to use that part of the talk for bookshops or small venues in the future, but for September I feel like I want to devise something interactive that will work for larger school visits as well.
All the Chatterbooks groups have been a joy to meet. And they have all said fab things about the book. Plus the librarians who run the Chatterbooks groups at the schools and libraries – Jo Clarke, Anne Thompson, Jenny Hawke, Gita Ralleigh Elisabetta Tosi – were all absolutely fantastic, and I am totally in awe of their enthusiasm to get their groups reading. Over all it has been so much fun, and a chance to hone my talk with small groups who have already read the book and loved it!