Have you ever had this happen? You’re in a room with first graders. You say to the kids, “Do you have any questions?” You call on an enthusiastic hand-raiser who says, “I like your shoes.” The next kid says, “I like your books.” The teacher interrupts with, “Now children, that’s a statement. You need to ask a question.” So, the next kid asks, “What’s your favorite color?” and every question after that begins with “What’s your favorite . . .” The warm fuzziness of the author moment is gone, and you have become the object of a dry language arts lesson.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some great Q & A sessions with younger kids, especially when they’ve read my books and have seen me in assembly. But things can go off-track fast if you’re not on alert.
Here’s an emergency strategy for doing a Q & A with your younger audiences.
On note cards (or postcards), write questions in advance of your visit – questions that you’d like to answer. Some questions can be serious (“Where do you get your ideas?”), others can be fun (“What pets did you have as a kid?” “What’s the silliest joke you ever heard?”) If you have a hard time coming up with kid-friendly questions, have a brainstorming session with your writers group and make up a batch of 30 together. (Hint: If you print a sheet of questions off on sticky labels, you won’t have to write them each time you do this activity!)
Put the questions in a hat or container. Have kids, in turn, draw a Question Card from the hat. Let each kid stand beside you and share the spotlight as you read the question aloud and give your answer.
You might also consider letting individual kids (or the class) keep the cards that are drawn out, autographing the cards at the end of the session. And if you have each question on your promotional postcard, the Question Cards turn into perfect souvenirs. You can be sure that when the cards go out the door, there’ll be lots for the class to talk about!