Multimedia online technologies now offer an unprecedented ability to enable every student, teacher, and even every family to "meet" the authors of books they are reading. Just imagine the impact on student reading, writing, and enthusiasm for books if you do the following:
* Bring the author into the classroom the moment you teach their books.
* Have students learn tips directly from many professional writers and illustrators.
* Have authors virtually visit any K-12 classroom for all subject areas.
If you have ever seen an author speak or have hosted authors in your school, you have experienced the impact meeting an author has on a personal relationship to a book. It humanizes the book. It reveals the person and personality that created it. Are you able to think of the book in the same way after meeting the author and getting a glimpse into the person and the reasons the book was created? Probably not.
This article highlights specific ways you can replicate these personal connections to authors and illustrators by optimizing a variety of multimedia and online technologies. I will review specific types of virtual author programs, give examples you can freely experience, share how you can use them in your school, and guide you toward bringing an author into every classroom.
I conclude by sharing my personal motivation for this work: encouraging a specific plan for every school to regularly reinforce the human connection of reading by giving every child, educator, and family an equal opportunity to meet the author of the books they are reading.
For you to best understand the premise of this article, I'd like to share how and why I got involved with virtual author programs. As a bookseller at an independent children's bookstore in Madison, Wis., I organized hundreds of author programs--in the store, in schools, in libraries, and even virtually--using some of the technologies discussed in this article. I experienced first-hand how seeing and hearing an author inherently changes one's relationship with the book, for both the student and the educator. Coming out of an educational-policy background, I knew there could be a way to give everyone this opportunity. So, with a partner, I decided to take an unexpected entrepreneurial plunge and create a company, TeachingBooks.net, that would accomplish this.
TeachingBooks.net is all about enabling virtual author and book connections for everyone. I invite myself into the homes of some of the best, most-read authors and illustrators so that a virtual author program can be created to give everyone access to these authors at the reader's convenience.
Note that while some examples in this article are specifically from my efforts at TeachingBooks.net, every example I give is freely available to you. Most importantly, whether you use TeachingBooks or not, I'm hoping that this article encourages and promotes what I see as a paradigm shift among educators: that they realize the benefits of--and start enabling the use of--technology in the classroom so that every teacher, student, curriculum coordinator, and even family can meet the author of the book they are reading.
ONLINE AUTHOR RESOURCES
The following resources use archived, multimedia online materials to bring an author into the classroom.
Movies in Authors' Studios
There are video clips and edited movies on the Internet that show authors in their studios. These are made by authors, publishers, and other entities. TeachingBooks.net tries to make the most comprehensive virtual author programs we can imagine with some of the most-read, award-winning authors and illustrators. We have movies, slideshows, written interviews, program guides, and links around the Web to help make these authors accessible to everyone in the educational stream (teachers, students, librarians, families--any readers). Here are some examples. …