We think they do.
And at the end of this post, I encourage you to weigh-in with an example.
Among writers, those who write for children are in a special category. We’re called on to motivate, inspire and educate students, not just to sell books. And many believe that our influence is long-term and durable.
Yet according to buzz among authors, many have been experiencing a decline in school visit invitations in the past couple of years. And teachers, librarians or parent volunteers have had to deal with resistance from administrators when proposing author visits to their schools.
Teachers and librarians feel that author visits make a difference and often share stories about the transformations they’ve witnessed among their students. But to be fair – especially in today’s tense testing climate — people who hold the purse strings want to know if the expenditure of time and money to bring an author on campus can pay off in terms of student gains or changes in behavior. A feeling isn’t enough.
To address this, Jo Anne Pandey, Ph.D., a faculty member at California State University Northridge in the Child and Adolescent Development department, and I began searching for empirical studies on author visits, but found none. So we designed a study to explore whether or not an author visit makes a difference in students’ attitudes toward reading, writing and revision. Our purpose was to find statistical data to offer schools about the value of an author visit. Our efforts have been endorsed by the Ventura County Reading Association.
To that end, we conducted a pilot study with fourth graders at one elementary school at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. The results were promising. First, a pre-test. Then one week following a one-hour author assembly, we did a post-test. The results of the pilot study showed that there were increases in student mean scores in reading interest, reading efficacy, writing interest, and positive attitudes about revision. Better still, increases were found to be statistically significant. Dr. Pandey shared details of the study at the International Organization of Social Sciences and Behavioral Research Conference in 2013.
The promising results have been encouraging enough to warrant an expanded study. In 2014-2015, we plan to conduct this study with 4th graders in 12 elementary schools in one school district (including Title I, fundamental and general schools) to see if these results are consistent across schools and a variety of author presentations.
What does this study mean to you as a presenter? It means that the results can give you one more compelling “convincer” in your arsenal of reasons for why it’s important for schools to host author visits. Schools provide assemblies throughout the year. Why shouldn’t at least one of them be an author visit, especially if that visit supports the schools primary goals of motivating students to read, write, and revise?
Educators have a gut feeling that the effect of an author’s in-person meeting with students percolates for years. But no one yet has done a quantitative study on the effect of these visits on children. This study can make history.
In the meantime, here’s how you can help us expand our study. We would like to collect your “personal triumph” stories about the impact of an author or illustrator visit on a student or school. While statistics are important, decision-makers also respond to stories!
Please share a story showing how an author visit had an impact on a school, library or individual child. Leave a comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.