I ADORE interacting with preschoolers. Topics zip around the room like hummingbirds. Here is an actual piece of dialogue from my most recent preschool visit in which we are reading A Warm Winter Tail and talking about adaptation to cold.
Me: What season is it outside right now?
Me: Is it a hot season or a cold season?
Me: Right. It's a cold season. It's winter. And its very cold today, isn't it?
Sweet Boy #1: I LIKE FROGS!!!!
Me: You like frogs? Um. Me, too. Do we see frogs in the winter?
Me: Right. We don't see frogs in the winter because they can't stay warm in the snow and cold weather. They have to "adapt" -- change their bodies -- to stay alive in the winter. Just before it gets cold in the winter, they make a home under some leaves where it is a little bit warmer.
Sweet Girl #1: I'M HAVING A SLEEPOVER WITH MY AUNT TONIGHT AND SHE'S SLEEPING ON THE PULL OUT COUCH BUT SHE TOLD MY MOM THAT IT ISN'T TOO SOFT FOR HER BUT SHE'S STILL SLEEPING OVER!!!!
Me: That sounds like fun. So...I bet you will give your aunt a blanket to keep her warm, right? Too bad animals don't have blankets. Have you ever seen a wild animal with a blanket?
Me: Or jackets?
Class: (MUCH LAUGHTER)
Me: Or mittens? (I'm loving the escalation of humor) Have you ever seen a whitetailed deer with mittens? He'd have to have four mittens right? One for each hoof?
Class: (SO MUCH LAUGHTER I'M WONDERING IF I'LL REEL THEM IN AGAIN. Oops. Maybe went a little too far with the escalation of humor thing)
Sweet Boy #2: DO YOU HAVE A DUMPTRUCK?
Me: (smiles) No, sadly I don't. I've always wanted a dumptruck.
ASK FOR QUESTIONS IN ADVANCE OF YOUR VISIT
I love questions at events. I really do. BUT, it can be very difficult to pick a questioner ("how about the boy in the blue shirt there? no, I meant that blue shirt...") out of a sea of children popping up and down like the Frogger game at a carnival, hands waiving, hollering, "me, me, me!" -- you get the picture. To conquer this issue, ask the person in charge of your visit to solicit questions in advance and have them ready for you. This exercise can become part of the extended learning preparation for your visit. It is also a great way to give the media specialist, custodian, or school secretary some limelight. Before your presentation, ask if they would mind coming on stage to read questions for you. Children love to see adults around them under a new (spot) light.
"PLAN FOR WORST CASE WONKY TECHNOLOGY DISASTERS"
Are you kidding me?
This is how I felt when I realized thirty minutes before my first presentation of five that my elderly laptop (tested at home) would suddenly not hold a charge from the electrical cord and the battery was dead. Thankfully, I had Dropboxed the Powerpoint presentation to each stop on my journey in advance. But, each stop used Macs and the conversion from my PowerPoint was only about 60% correct. So...what did I do? At the first presentation, I asked the audience for patience and winged it. (Humor goes a long way.) For the remainder of the visits, I borrowed my brother-in-law's PC laptop and downloaded my Powerpoint from the jumpdrive I brought with me. This was a great solution (for me, not so sure about my brother-in-law) except that three of the four remaining visits used Mac enabled projectors so I never knew for sure if the PC laptop and Mac projectors would talk nicely to each other. I made sure to arrive at least an hour in advance of each presentation to work out the kinks. Then I crossed my fingers. And toes.
Bates Elementary School -- such a respectful audience!
I've just returned from a school and library visit trip (three elementary schools in Dexter MI and my hometown library and can truthfully say these visits are one of my favorite parts of being a children's book author. I adore seeing how our book has contributed to understanding, broadened perspectives, and encouraged questioning about the world. Yes, there have been some sleepless nights worrying about the technology (will the projector speak to the laptop? will the image on the screen project large enough for children in the back of a big room to see? will the microphone work?) and wondering about my presentation (will it engage almost 200 children ages 5-9 for an hour? can I lead a song without squeaking? will listeners leave with a greater appreciation for animals and their adaptations?). But the reactions are so worth any lack of sleep and caffeine works wonders! Stay tuned for lessons learned on the road...
Carrie Pearson is a children's book author, writer-cheerleader, and mentorship matchmaker.