Today, I had my first real book reading! I mean, I made two “special appearances” in the kindergarten rooms at my school, but since it’s my usual place of work, I just saw it as an extension of teaching. But today, I went to the Ontario Early Years Centre in Cornwall for their open house, read “Sad Monster & The Wishing Tree” to a pile of iddy-biddy-kiddies and gave out a few books.
To be honest, it was a bit terrifying. I was pumped about it until I arrived. Then the nerves set in. I walked in and there was this huge room full of moms and kids (where were the dads?), playing, running, dressing up and having a ball. They didn’t really know who I was, so I was just sort of standing there, waiting for the lady to get the reading started. There was no stage or area for it, which was sort of nice, because I got to read in a comfy rocking chair, at the carpet. But as I was standing there, unsure of what to say or where to look, I started to worry that I just looked like a weirdo who stumbled into the wrong building. I reminded myself to uncross my arms to look more approachable and tried to smile, but by this point I was really getting nervous. The room was large and I knew I’d be fighting for sound.
One thing that set my mind at ease a bit was when a mom came up to me with her daughter and told me that she went to the school I worked at last year, and that she (apparently) talks about me all the time. She was in one of those kinder classes, so she already knew the story. It was very sweet and made me feel a little less out of place!
As I was introduced, this wild room full of loud and active kids began assembling into the storytime circle. This posed a problem for me. I suddenly, automatically, without realizing it, got into teacher-mode. I was waiting for them to quiet down (as is usually my process … wait … wait … wait …..) when I realized that they were waiting for me to start. Great. Now they think I’m a loser!
So I got started. I rambled through a quick introduction and began reading the story. But the problem was that one little boy was crying loudly because he wanted his sister’s toy high heels. His mother was trying to quiet him down, and a few other mothers were trying to hush their little ones as well. This meant I was fighting for attention. My story, Sad Monster & The Wishing Tree, was written for kids under 5-6, and is truly a bedtime story. It’s sweet but not action-packed. This was also possibly a problem. I tried to give each page enough time, but still get through it quickly enough so that I wouldn’t lose the ones who were into it. When the mom had taken out her little boy who was crying, I suggested to audience that perhaps he was really upset about the sad monster. I’m not sure if this was a good joke or not. I am SO awkward sometimes.
Once I was done, they clapped, which was nice. My students don’t clap when I’m done reading. So it was a good change! I quickly told them that I’d brought some colouring pages with the Sad Monster, and that we would be having a colouring contest, and that the winners would win a book! I was going to give out 3 books, but at the end, there were four and I just couldn’t decide. I am so indecisive, I should have left it up to someone else to pick the winners!!
By this point, some of the parents spoke a bit to me, and the kids were smiling at me, but I was so overwhelmed by the rush of a reading I’d done that I couldn’t figure out what to say. I’m a teacher – I’m not sure why I was so nervous and awkward around the kids. I’m going to chalk it up to the last class I had, where I had to constantly fight for attention. I think they did a number of my self esteem and confidence.
Now that the first book reading is over, I know what I need to do next. Here is my advice to myself on how to be a better author visitor:
– Don’t be the teacher!
– Start off with a hook … some kind of quick intro that quiets the room and focuses it on me, me, me
– MEMORIZE the story! That way I can stay OUT of the book and INTO the audience.
– Bring the book, but bring bigger versions of the illustrations. OR, illustrate while telling the story!
– Be more FUN. I’m the entertainment, afterall! Stop worrying.
– Good job on the colouring pages. Do that again.
Now, maybe I’m hurting myself with my honesty, but I PROMISE, if YOU book me for a reading (and they’re free), I’ll be better than I was today! (I think I might be the only one who noticed.)