In these troubled times, there is a danger that paying for an author visit to promote children’s writing will increasingly rank low on a school’s list of priorities. And yet … if an author visit goes well, some pupils will get more of a writing confidence-boost in one day than they normally would in a whole term; some will crack how to plot a story and will go off to compose their first magnum opus; and some will discover that writing can actually be fun.
This is not because teachers are bad at teaching writing; it’s because the structured writing units of the national curriculum deal in the mechanics of writing while allowing very little space for creativity. Units such as these have been in place since the early 1990s, yet a staggering 36% of 11-year-old boys failed to meet the expected writing level in 2010 (the figure for girls was 21%).
An author dances and shadow boxes with the many aspects of writing on a daily basis, and if a school allows them freedom – at least for a few hours – then many a bold writing adventure can be had.