Wordfest Youth supplies authors from across Canada and around the world to present fun, illuminating in- and out-of-school events that promote a love of reading and a deeper appreciation of the written word. We are a high-caliber, not-for-profit literary event planner of the wordiest, nerdiest kind who, for more than 20 years, has given kids mind-bending opportunities to discover that life is brighter, funnier and juicier when reading and writing rule.
Meeting an actual person who wrote an actual book (especially one that students have read and enjoyed) is a rare, captivating and transformative experience. The opportunity to ask an author why a bird might wake up grumpy or learn first-hand what inspires a writer to write fosters self-confidence, sparks conversations and seeds imaginative potential.
A captivating, hour-long presentation by a Wordfest author who will—with vibrant, interactive detail—discuss the building blocks of storytelling, share the strange and wondrous details of their day-to-day writing life and emphasize the importance of imagination, research, resilience and reading.
The school also receives a dynamic, curriculum-focussed Reading Guide, as well as collectible author trading cards for each student, and a 10 percent discount on the author’s book through our bookseller, Owl’s Nest Books. In addition, when events are booked off-campus, teachers and chaperones will receive complimentary tickets.
Why should I book an author/illustrator visit for my classroom—how will my class benefit?
Wordfest welcomes school groups to events in theatres and helps organise in-school visits with Festival authors and illustrators.
The chance to meet an author or illustrator in person can spark a greater interest in reading than would be possible by simply assigning the book as part of the curriculum. There is nothing quite like it. It’s not magic. It’s not talent. It’s not even the books the author has written that make school visits so successful. Meeting authors make the writing process, books, and the authors themselves more accessible and real to students.
Wordfest presents authors and illustrators who help bring literature to life. They unveil “the story behind the story” of their craft, sharing where they find ideas and inspiration for the characters, settings and situations that drive a plot forward. Writers from the Wordfest Youth Program are also in a unique position to encourage young readers to try their hand at writing their own stories, drawing from their own experiences.
For 45–60 intense, interactive minutes, visiting Wordfest artists entertain while fostering an appreciation of literature and the writing process in a fresh, new way. Depending on the grade level of the presentation, the authors may share insights on the basic building blocks of storytelling, how to research topics for a story, how to incorporate their imagination and the importance of editing and rewriting. Teachers also benefit from these learning opportunities in the process, and have shared with us the delight of learning new techniques for teaching creative writing, illustrating and storytelling.
Artists presented at the Festival are professionals who have spent years perfecting their craft, and they represent the highest standards of quality in presentations to youth. They bring a wealth of talent and insight from their education and experience to their presentations, and provide a valuable service that complements and enhances the school curriculum. Like other professionals, they charge for their time and they often travel from afar to attend the Festival in Calgary. Since charitable donations, sponsorships and public funding are not always enough, ticket sales help offset the costs of bringing world-class artists to Wordfest.
Why pay for a Wordfest school visit or field trip to the Festival?
It is up to teachers to carefully choose whom they invite so that the visit promotes literacy and fosters a love of reading. A weak presentation or a poorly written book just fills time, and may unintentionally discourage young readers. In assessing the value of an author visit, it is up to the teacher to decide if the presenter’s books are likely to engage and enrich students, and if the experience, credentials and reputation of the presenter are likely to fulfill the outcomes hoped for with the visit.
Other considerations may include the proximity of the presenter to your school, and whether you are able to afford all of the advertised and unexpected costs of inviting an out-of-town presenter.
All of this takes time and requires access to the right resources, including an intimate knowledge of the book industry for young readers. Teachers, principles and parent associations may not have the all the connections needed or the time to devote to organizing a successful school visit on their own.
The Festival enjoys privileged access to a vast network of contacts, agents, representatives and publishers who work with top authors and emerging talent in YA and children’s literature. Wordfest draws on this network of resources to carefully vet artists for their experience, credentials and reputation. Wordfest also charges a flat rate for school visits so educators always know what to expect. And the Festival works hard to keep its programming affordable by involving volunteers, donors, sponsors, public funders and support from the publishing industry.
Booking an author visit through Wordfest means that your school will not incur additional or unexpected costs related to an author’s appearance. Flight charges, ground transportation, artist meals, appearance fees and any GST levied by the presenters or their agents (if applicable) is included in the fixed fee Wordfest charges for a school visit.
The amount Wordfest charges for an artist appearance represent only a percentage of the total costs associated with a school visit. As a charitable non-profit organization, Wordfest seeks additional sources of funding from individual donors, sponsors, foundations and public funders to keep the fees it charges as low as possible.
For example, Wordfest charged a fixed price of $600 for each in-school events in 2014, while the actual expenses absorbed by the Festival and its supporters start at about $750 and may run as high as $1,200 per event, depending on the following factors:
Are there any subsidies available to schools to help cover the booking fee?
Some school councils in Alberta may be receiving funding from AGLC (through casino or bingo fundraisers). In the majority of cases, these funds can be used toward the expense of a school visit or field trip to a Wordfest event. Contact your school council or parent association for more information. Details of these programs can be found on The Writers’ Union of Canada readings subsidy program page.
Tip: Some teachers have reported that they have organized specific fundraisers dedicated to bringing a Wordfest author to their school. They have shared their successful fundraisers with us. You can find them on our Fundraising Ideas handout.
How do I select the right author/illustrator to visit my classroom?
Starting in April of each year, the Wordfest Youth Program pages on wordfest.com include a list of artists who are available for school visits during the Festival in October.
When possible, choose a presenter with a book whose subject matter ties in with current studies. Wordfest creates reading guides that help educators quickly identify how a book connects with the Alberta curriculum. As well, ask other teachers and librarians to recommend artists who have done wonderful school presentations.
What can I do in advance to prepare for a school visit?
Check the school schedule to make sure the dates and times for the visit won’t be competing with assemblies, student pictures and other events that may interrupt or reduce the presenter’s audience.
Contact Wordfest well in advance of the proposed date to ensure that you agree on your intended venue, audience size and grade level. Discuss any special requests you may have about the needs of your classroom, or the books or themes you’d like the presenter to cover. As well, make sure you are able to anticipate any special equipment (e.g., audio visual support) required by the presenter.
Most importantly, prepare your students by familiarizing them with the work of your invited presenter. The more students know about the artist, the more interested and enthusiastic they will be. Encourage your students to prepare questions that the class would like the presenter to answer. (Discuss the difference between comments and questions. Discuss what types of questions are appropriate and which ones are pertinent but not impertinent!).
When possible, invite students to undertake projects (crafts, posters, etc.) based on the presenter’s books. These activities will help build excitement and a sense of connection. Ask younger students to draw or write what they think the presenter looks like, based on his or her work. When the presenter arrives, students will be excited to see if their descriptions or drawings are accurate.
If the presenter has asked to bring books for sale, send an advance notice home with students.
It is vital to the success of the visit that teachers participate fully and enthusiastically. Be prepared to introduce your presenter to the class, or assign a student to do so. Students follow a teacher’s lead, so bear in mind that a teacher distracted by marking, or other tasks, may inadvertently convey the impression to the students (and the artist) that the school visit is not valued.
Please be prepared to deal with persistent behaviour problems if there are any. Presenters do not know the students, and they rely on the teacher not to let the energy in the room get out of control, while still allowing students to be excited about the visit.
Often very young students have a hard time forming a question. Teachers can start by asking their own questions about writing, performing, illustrating, and publishing. Sometimes it helps to prepare a list of questions in advance and have them ready on a flip chart or blackboard.
On the more practical side, speaking can be a thirsty business. An offer of tea/coffee and bottled water is most appreciated.
If the visit spans the lunch period, let Wordfest know if the school will be providing a lunch. If the presenter is to bring a lunch, please invite him or her to join you and other teachers in your lunch room.
Visits from an author/illustrator create a connection with students that will last long after the presentation day. Librarians report that books fly out of the library after a presentation. Educators can keep this connection strong by ensuring that the library has stocked its shelves with the presenter’s books. Librarians may consider featuring them prominently in the days leading up to and following the visit. Using the presenter’s work as part of a teaching unit is also a great way to build on the connection created and to motivate students.
Teachers can also ask the students to reflect on the presenter’s visit through writing or art projects. Ask open-ended questions that encourage evaluation of the presentation: What surprised them most? What was their favourite or least favourite part of the presentation? What did they learn? Was there anything that did not make sense? By exploring topics such as these, students will get much more out of the visit and teachers can extend the value of a visiting author/illustrator beyond the actual time spent visiting the school.
Wordfest artists enjoy getting feedback from students after a visit, which further strengthens the literacy tie between students and the presenter. Encourage students to write their thoughts about the visit or prepare messages of thanks, and forward them to Wordfest.