[I asked prolific writer and esteemed colleague Sandra Markle to blog about her new educational effort, Markle’s Book Explorers.]
I’m about to visit ten schools in ten different states across the United States. I’ll be sweeping down the East Coast, zooming across the Midwest, and zipping all the way up to the far Northwest before I finish. However, jetlag won’t be a problem, and there won’t be any need to pack. Also, the total airfare, cost for hotel stays, and meals for this mammoth tour that will last about two months is—wait for the drumroll–absolutely zero. You’ll be wondering how this can be possible? It is thanks to the fact that each of my visits is going to happen virtually via Skype.The ten schools I’ll be visiting are Markle’s Book Explorers Schools, the winners of a contest I ran on my activity-packed blog (WRITE ON! SANDRA MARKLE http://sandra-markle.blogspot.com).
I’ve always loved opportunities to work closely with kids so this has been a wonderful chance for me to do that in a big way. So far, I’ve sent the schools a copy of my latest release WAITING FOR ICE (Charlesbridge, 2012) and bookmarks for my award-winning book THE CASE OF THE VANISHING GOLDEN FROGS (Millbrook, 2012), free downloads of my new e-book SOARING LIKE EAGLES (Amazon, Kindle Edition), and activities designed to help children dig in and explore my books.
I’ve also shared activities teachers and librarians can use to help children get ready for my visit. These include using latitude and longitude clues to find where I live and where I was born on a map, providing a guide to digging into one of my books, analyzing how I develop an exciting nonfiction book from the introductory page to the back matter. I’ve also shared activities that can be used after my visit, such as instructions for hands-on science investigations and a guide to help children research and write their own mini-nonfiction book.
Best of all, though, will be the opportunity for me to visit with the children, and this won’t be your usual school visit. Whether it’s a small group or the entire school, everyone will fit “virtually” when I invite them into my home in New Zealand. First, they’ll join me in my kitchen, sharing hands-on science investigations. Some experiments are so much fun they’ll seem like magic! But there will also be ones they can easily and safely repeat at home with detailed instructions I’ll be sending to their schools. Then I’ll take the children next door to my office for a quick behind-the-scenes peek at where I work and how I create the books they enjoy from idea to publication. Finally, I’ll settle into a comfy chair for my very favorite part of the visit. Then the children will ask me questions and we’ll talk.
The new technologies are making it possible for school visits to be as close as the Internet. I love that I no longer need to travel long distances to share my books and how much I love making nonfiction topics real adventures. I can say, “Come visit me. Let’s have fun together exploring the world through books!”