Friday, 9 January 2015

Class Author

Roald Dahl is a great children's author. Admittedly, he's also responsible for Charlie & the Great Glass Elevator which is, in my opinion, very disjointed and rather boring, but pretty much all of the other books he wrote were wonderful. Virtually every child in Key Stage Two knows his name and most can name at least a few of his books. This also applies to the other 'usual suspects': Jacqueline Wilson, JK Rowling, David Walliams, etc.

However, there are literally hundreds of other great children's authors out there that, without a little guidance, can easily be overlooked by the majority of children. Off the top of my head this includes Sam Gayton, Katherine Paterson, SF Said, Paul Jennings, Jamila Gavin, Josh Lacey and Gill Lewis. It's a very arbitrary list, so please don't pull me up on any wonderful authors that are missing (although do feel free to add to it!).

In order to widen the children's knowledge of authors and poets, about three years ago we decided that each class in the school would have a Class Author. The author would change 4-5 times a year, and would sometimes be selected by the teacher and sometimes by the children. A child joining us in Year 3 and leaving us in Year 6 would then be exposed to the work of at least 20 different authors during their time at junior school, as well as that of all the ones they know about anyway. Three years down the line and the idea is still going strong.

4JB's Class Author

Each class has an author display in their classroom and there is also a school display of current and previous authors outside the library. Revealing the new author is always very exciting and is done in a variety of ways. Some teachers reveal their identity on the class blog or via Twitter and one puts up a photo of the author in his classroom to see if the children can recognise who it is. If they don't get it straight away, he then throws in an occasional clue during the week.

Recent Class Authors (including Mildred D Taylor, Rene Goscinny, Noel Langley, Terry Deary, Michael Rosen and The Brothers Grimm)

Every teacher is given a book budget of approximately £50 for each class author they have during the year so, as time has gone on, the classrooms have become much better stocked with great books. The staff all approach the idea differently. Some have a fixed author slot every week where they find out information about their writer alongside the children, some encourage the class to research the author at home, almost all ensure they find time every day to read one of the author's books. In fact, pretty much anything to raise the profile of the writer and their work. Occasionally the children have emailed the author to let them know that they are their chosen Class Author, share a picture of the classroom display and ask them a few questions. Most of the time, the authors have been really receptive and happy to engage, and one even offered to hold a conversation via Skype with the class.

It's a simple idea that has been very effective. It's noticeably improved the children's awareness of different authors, as well as that of the school staff. At the end of last year, I asked my Year 4 class to list as many authors as they could- they came up with over 50 between them! The fact that there's a new author every few weeks keeps it fresh and the children know that if their current Class Author isn't really their cup of tea, another one will be along pretty soon.

3 comments:

  1. I like this suggestion and could see it working at my school. Exposing children to new authors is one of the best aspects of being a librarian, especially when they discover one whose work they fall in love with. Do you ever select non-fiction writers or graphic novelists? Completely agree about Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator btw- it's dire.

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  2. Alex Shearer - esp. Bootleg and The Speed of the Dark

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  3. This sounds like so much fun!

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