For the last seventeen years, the Schools’ Library Service (SLS) in Guernsey has run a very successful Book Week. We have had many interesting authors over the years, including Ian Whybrow, Tanya Landman, Brian Moses, Tim Bowler, Beverly Naidoo, Tony Mitton,The Two Steves, Bali Rai, Nicola Davies, Ann Bryant, Linda Newbery and Alan Gibbons, to name but a few. We usually pick one author suitable for Infants, one for Juniors and one for secondary school readers.So why choose now to write a blog about Book Week? We have recently looked at what we offer as part of the Book Week experience, and we felt it was the perfect opportunity to use our brand new blog as a way for others to learn from our experiences.
One of the major changes to our Book Week is that it has moved to the second week in February, having moved from October. We found that getting secondary schools to book ahead at the end of the school term for a session in October was very difficult, and because of this we found that we couldn’t make the best use of the authors’ time. Moving it to February meant we could contact schools in September when they knew their timetables for the year, and they were all able to book our author for a whole day.
Planning your February Book Week
Book your author
We start to plan for the next year as soon as our current Book Week is finished. We have found that it is important to get the authors booked well in advance. We start by thinking about authors that are well known and send out emails. I can honestly say that many of these authors have either not been able to do our Book Week due to time or we have not been able to take them due to cost. We do have a budget but I am unwilling to spend it all on one author. Maybe one day… David Walliams!
We then look at authors who have been nominated for any current book awards. Sometimes we are lucky if an author is doing really well but is not too well known, then we can get some really interesting up and coming authors. Finally we look to Authors Abroad and Authors Aloud, both of whom have found us some very exciting authors in the past.
Once we have three authors in mind, we then do some digging. Just because an author has written some amazing books does not make them natural speakers. We ask for references and phone schools that they have previously visited. People are very willing to let you know if an author has done well or not. This is by no means fool proof, and we have been caught out once or twice by authors who were just not up to the full week that we had planned for them, or they were overwhelmed by the numbers and weren’t able to engage the children. Having said that, the majority of our authors have been brilliant and have not only engaged our children but really enjoyed the week themselves.
We also check out how many books they have published, as it is more difficult to engage the schools if they only have one book published.
Once the author is booked, what next?
Travel and hotels
As we are on an Island it is essential to get the flights and hotels booked well in advance. We need to check which is the author’s closest airport. Hotels usually have deals if they know they are going to get repeat bookings, so it is worth phoning around to check if a better deal is available.
We then order a selection of the authors’ books and create a list for our schools so that this is ready to go out when we announce the authors in September.
Create author packs
This year we decided to try and encourage the schools to take more of an interest in Book Week by creating an author pack filled with activities, information and a competition. We gave the author packs out to the schools that booked just before Christmas so they could use it in their planning. We were lucky this year that our authors have great websites, from which we were able to get some great ideas. Generally the authors agree to judge the competition and are happy to give signed books as prizes.
Order Book Week Posters
We also decided to update our posters this year, so we had a local company design and produce them. This takes time as you need to make sure you are happy with the designs, check the spelling and look for any missing words! These were also put into the packs so that schools could use them around the classroom/library/corridors.
Create timetables and inform schools
We generally allow every primary school the option of seeing both the infant and junior author throughout the week for an hour-long session. A secondary school is encouraged to have their author for a full day. An email is sent to every school telling them about the authors we have chosen, giving them a list of books they can order and inviting them to book their sessions. We tend to get full very quickly for the primary schools, but it can take the secondary schools a little longer to get organised, given that they often have a full day to book.
Schools order authors’ books and receive activity packs
Once the schools have booked their session, they can place an order of the authors’ books. Every school that has booked is sent an activity pack just before Christmas.
The fun begins in January
A meeting is held at the beginning of January with all the SLS staff in order to decide how we will engage the schools and create an exciting build-up to our Book Week event. This year it was decided that our SLS librarians would offer assemblies for the Junior children and run story sessions with the Infants, whilst promoting the competitions at the same time. By a stroke of coincidence, some of the secondary schools are looking at extreme weather in Geography, and so it was decided that Nick Cook’s tornado-themed book could be tied in with both the Geography and English Departments at the secondary schools.
Organising Secondary Schools
As each school has individual needs, it is important that we make sure that they are aware of planning. We ensure that we know which year group has been selected and, if there is an option of different workshops, that they have decided which one they would like. Timetabling is also essential because each school has slightly different length of lessons and lunchtimes, and it is important that we can tell the authors as much information as possible before they arrive.
Send the authors their timetables
Arrangements are then made to meet the authors on arrival at the airport, and it is also decided who will accompany which author on each day.
Book Week commences
One of the team meets each author at the airport and takes them to their hotel on the Sunday evening. We arrange for all the librarians who will be taking the authors around for the week to meet at the hotel for a drink in order to make sure everyone knows who is picking them up the next day and at what time.
Look out for our next post, where we’ll be discussing the event, how we think it went, and our experiences of Book Week 2016.