Thursday, February 11, 2010

Authors, Are You Engaging?

As I watched the adorable little faces on the childen in the class I visited yesterday, a question crossed my mind: Am I engaging? (I think the answer is “yes”. At least, I hope so.)

Nope, I’m not talking about being attractive or delightful. Yes, it does help to have an engaging personality, and it does come in handy when working with children. But, while this is important if you wish to prevent the risk of boring them to death, I’m talking about the word “engaging” when used as a verb. Most parents and teachers have probably realized that the longer you talk to children, the less they hear. Talk too long and they hear nothing…nada. Engage them and you have an entirely different situation.

This really holds true if you are an author and are doing classroom visits. If you talk “at” children, if you bore them to tears, not only will they not respond to you, but they also won’t buy your books.

Here are a few clues as to whether or not a group of children is bored with your presentation:

1.The children's eyes appear to have glazed over.
2.You call on a child and their answer is "huh?"
3.You ask the group a question and no one raises their hand.
4.You tell a joke and no one gets it.
5.You ask a question about your book and someone raises their hand to tell you a totally unrelated story about their new cat.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way suggesting that we act like a clowns or think we are there to be entertainers. However, it's really important to ask the children questions throughout your presentation. Do you have some props to show them, such as a lantern like one in your book or a hat like the one worn by your character? Can you interject a song? Can you have the group repeat a difficult word that you have used or read aloud with you a line of text? Do you have colorful pictures or charts that you can hold up? If we do these types of things, we can make the class a part of the experience, rather than just a group of onlookers. You’ve probably heard that expression, “I see your lips moving, but all I hear is blah, blah, blah.”

Bobbie Hinman

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