“Are you ready for another adventure?”
That’s the opening line of my picture book God Made Something Amazing, the book I used as for a playgroup visit last week at Hornsby Baptist Church. It’s also the thought that runs through my mind as I prepare resources I’ll need for each and every playgroup visit I do’. Am I ready? For another adventure?
Sometimes I think writers for adults have more opportunities to do speaking engagements (and therefore promotional possibilities), but there are some unique openings for audience engagement that only a children’s writer has. There is something magical about the way a child engages in story. They are more likely than adults to let their mouth hang open in suspense. They have a tendency to lean forward, stand up, butt in mid sentence with enthusiasm. But they are also more tempted to let their attention drift when confronted by the choice of listening to the visiting speaker or watching a fly escape out the window.
Then, if you multiply that child by 16, add several talkative mums in the background, three sets of fussy babies and several toddlers who really, really want to get back to the train set, you have the ingredients for adventure, whether you wanted it or not!
I find playgroup visits, especially church based playgroup visits, really worthwhile. Each one I’ve done has been slightly different because I like to tailor my visits to the needs of the group. I also like to consider my part in their program as a contribution to ministry. Although the section I run may only take 15 minutes of time I commit to being there the whole morning. There are several reasons for this:
· I like to chat with the mums and get a general feel for the group. The children also relax more if they see me interacting with their adults.
· I ask about church background, it comes up naturally when asking about attendance etc, and that helps me know where the adults stand. Many playgroups are full of non-church mums.
· I let people know I’m a mum and refer to my children and my writing, again this just builds credibility.
· I wander around and engage with children, learning as many names as I can for use in my story time, and breaking down barriers.
· I watch how the children are interacting with each other and with their toys – this gathers clues for how they’ll respond during my program/craft and if necessary I can adapt what I’ve got planned.
Sometimes I’ll prepare games, some singing (even though as feel like a goose doing it!) and maybe an action rhyme to reinforce the theme. Always, I offer to bring along a craft activity suitable for the age range in the group.
Then I pack my bag with books for sale, my soft toys for the games, my program in case I get nervous and forget what I’m doing, and arm myself with prayer.
I’m always exhausted at the end of a playgroup visit – partly due to my introverted personality, partly due to the very age group involved. But I keep taking bookings because it’s worth it, no matter how many or few books I might sell at the event. It’s worth it to see a little group of eager 3 and 4 year olds bouncing on their knees to see the pictures, eyes shining at their correct guessing and mouths wide in smiles as they point to each other and say “God’s love reaches me and you!” And it’s worth it knowing for this brief morning I had the chance to show Christ’s love to harried mums and they got to hear, from the very lips of their children, just how big God’s love for them is.
P.S For more ideas and inspiration about preparing for author visits with children be sure to book into this year’s Word Writer Fair/Getaway. I’ll be presenting on this topic there also.
P.P.S. Join the adventure with children, faith and stories at my facebook page.
Penny Reeve is a children's author currently residing in Western Sydney. This week she hopes to finish a cross-stitch book mark, remember to bake the bread before it rises over the pan and get lost in Philippians chapter two while writing a Bible Study for tweens.