In today’s economy, it can be difficult for many schools to pay for in-person author visits. These visits can include travel, food and lodging costs over the initial price of the actual visit. Many visits of well-known authors can cost upwards of 2,000 dollars. However, author visits are still vital for our students and can allow them to interact with the text they are reading more fully. Additionally, an author visit allows students to see the writing process in action – the author is not just some faceless entity but is just like them! This can be a valuable experience and great inspiration for our young writers.
What is the solution then? Skype visits! For just the cost of a web-cam*, a little bit of planning, and a Skype account you can bring authors regularly into the classroom. Many authors will list whether or not they Skype on their websites or you can send a simple e-mail request.
My first experience with Skype was last year as moderator of the 5th and 6th grade I Love Books! Club. We had just finished Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner and talked with her over Skype for a half hour. We even got a sneak-peak of one of her up-coming books. This was a fantastic way for the students to learn more about the author behind story.
More recently, my two fifth grade language arts classes Skyped with author Adam Gidwitz.
We had just finished reading his fabulous book, A Tale Dark and Grimm, and the students loved it. I e-mailed Adam to see if he offered Skype visits and would be willing to Skype with my students. For a nominal fee, we were able to have two Skype visits of 45 minutes each. He told stories, talked about a writer’s life and answered the students’ questions. He interacted with the students like he was there in person. The reaction from the students was extremely positive and many asked if we could Skype with all of the authors we read.
There are many resources that make it easy to find Skyping authors.
http://authorskypetour.livejournal.com/ – This resource highlights different authors who are hosting virtual “tours” for their books. Authors featured on this site do not require that students have already read their books but can talk about a variety of reading and writing topics.
http://skypeanauthor.wetpaint.com/ - This resource features a Skype author directory. Each author is linked to a page in which the author webpage, genre, presentation possibilities, audience and availability are displayed. Skyping success stories + recaps are also provided.
http://kmessner.livejournal.com/106020.html – Author and junior high teacher Kate Messner is a fantastic resource for both reading and writing ideas and Skype visits. This page lists authors who are willing to do a 20 minute Skype visit for free (longer visits could be done for a small fee). The authors are broken up by age group appeal.
*Some Skype visits will have a fee but will only be a fraction of the cost of an in-person visit.
I think Skype is a great way to make authentic connections with authors and is another way to make literature come alive for your students! Happy Skyping!