8 top tips to go out and entertain a classroom

Yasmeen Ismail wants every author and illustrator out there to know that it's always, always about the kids. Here's what you need to do to keep them laughing (and learning). 

Illustrator Yasmeen Ismail at a visit to Hawksworth Wood Primary School 

The trick to school events is that you absolutely must remember what it’s about. It’s not about your profile, and it’s not about your fantastic new book. When you really boil it down, it’s about the kids.

I know, that sounds very corny, but no matter which way I turn it over, that’s what it comes down to.

When I do school visits, certain things are very predictable. I will always get lost in the school at some point, or not be able to locate a room/the entrance/the exit (honestly, it’s like a stress-dream). But I can never truly predict the kids I get. Some will be loud and excitable and hilarious, others subdued and hostile ('I’M BORED!' yelled one). It’s a mixed bag, but fortunately, there are things I can do to mitigate any potential fallout:

  1. Try and travel beyond London. The rest of the country needs you too.
  2. Bring a ton of craft materials. And I mean loads. More than you can carry. Taxi fares be damned.
  3. Have more than one activity prepared (in case someone is 'BORED').
  4. Make your activities EXCITING! This is your moment to have some incredible fun. I honestly cannot bear a drawalong; they should be drawing their thing, not mimicking your thing.
  5. Relinquish your dignity. Be incredibly silly. Make lots of fart jokes. My husband turned to me one day and said, 'If you think about it, there’s not much difference between you and a clown.' More fool him, I say. He married me.
  6. Be prepared for a WHOLE LOT OF CHAT ABOUT NOTHING. And chats about dead pets.
  7.  Leave plenty of time. GIVE plenty of time. Don’t rush it if you can help it.
  8. And finally, give them stickers. No matter how awful it goes, stickers will always provide redemption. 
Please do not forget my initial point: it’s all about the kids. Especially the ones who are stressed out, missing a parent, missing both parents, not sleeping well, frightened, worried, having a hard time, having a rough time, given no time, lonely, lost, hurt, confused, ignored, insecure, bullied, and new. They are looking to the clown at the front of the room who’s making fart jokes to relieve them of their pain and to help them understand that there is much, much more for them.

And so, with these top tips in mind, go forth and entertain!

Illustrator Yasmeen Ismail 

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