Access to Authors in Lockdown

26 January, 2021

I mentioned in an earlier blog (What’s Happening – Spring Term 2021) that one small silver lining to the grey cloud of Covid was that many CPD courses had moved online, making it possible to access courses outside your area. The same could also be true of author events. An online event won’t be quite the same as a live event but, with World Book Day just around the corner, there are still lots of ways to give children the opportunity to be inspired by an author talking about their work.

Author/illustrator workshops and masterclasses

You can find a range of workshops, masterclasses or online chats with authors to help promote reading and writing.

  • Authorfy provides a whole host of opportunities to allow young writers to be inspired by best-selling authors. From the 10 Minute Challenges to the longer, more detailed and fully-resourced Author Masterclasses, there is an impressive selection of authors, genres and themes. (Suitable for KS1 – KS3.)
  • The World Book Day website features an Author and Illustrator Academy with free masterclasses from World Book Day authors for primary and secondary pupils. Their new line-up for 2021 will be announced in February.
  • Join Emma Carroll as she starts on the first draft of a new story. She is running free 30-minute writing workshops on Instagram every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 10.00am (follow her on @emmacarroll2603). The workshops started on 12th January but you can catch up on past recordings here, or on her publisher’s YouTube channel.
  • Author SF Said is live on Twitter every Tuesday afternoon between 2pm and 3pm on the hashtag #whatSFSaid to answer questions about his work. (Suitable for KS2 and KS3.)
  • Picture book illustrator Jim Field shows children how to draw some of the characters from his picture books on his website. (Suitable for KS1 and KS2.)
  • Visit Sarah McIntyre’s YouTube channel for a selection of illustration workshops and readings from her books. (Suitable for KS1 and KS2.)
  • Award-winning writer, Sarah Webb has created a series of creative writing workshops with the Museum of Literature Ireland for KS2 children.
  • Rob Biddulph started his #DrawWithRob videos during the first Lockdown and, since then, they have been viewed millions of times by children around the world. He is still posting a new video every Saturday and you can find them, along with all the earlier videos, on his website and YouTube channel. (Suitable for KS1 and KS2.)
  • Michael Rosen has his own channel on YouTube full of poetry performances, readings from his books and writing masterclasses, with new material added regularly. Visit Kids’ Poems and Stories with Michael Rosen. (Suitable for KS1 and KS2.)

Online Literature Festivals

The first of the 2021 literature festivals are coming up, offering new online programmes for schools. You can also still access many of the online programmes from last year’s main children’s literature festivals.

  • The Bishop’s Stortford College Festival of Literature is back for its 12th year from 2nd 12th February with an online schools programme that will be available to watch live or on catch up. Whole school access for either the primary or secondary school programme is available for £175, with events from of-the-moment authors such as Joseph Coelho, Tom Palmer, Rachel Rooney, Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Anthony McGowan.
  • Sign up today for the Bournville BookFest for Schools 2021 online festival. Cressida Cowell, Benjamin Zephaniah, Michael Rosen, Steven Butler and Steven Lenton are just some of the authors and illustrators providing online sessions that will be available to view for free during World Book Day week 1st – 5th March. (Suitable for KS1 and KS2.)
  • The Children’s Bookshow will be running a 3-day live digital festival from 3rd – 5th March featuring Jo Empson, Neil Layton, Kwame Alexander, Michael Rosen, Daniel Morden and Catherine Johnson. The events are free but booking is required and places are limited. (Suitable for KS1 and KS2.)
  • Stratford Literary Festival has an online Schools Programme that includes six recorded author events with authors such as Michael Rosen, Sita Brahmachari and Frank Cottrell-Boyce. There is also a virtual bookshelf with recommended reads for children of all ages and a Story Builder guide with tips on how to create your very own story. (Suitable for KS1 -KS3.)
  • Authors Live is a series of free children’s author and illustrator events organised by Scottish Book Trust and BBC Scotland that are brought into the classroom live via the web. As well as the scheduled live events, schools can access past events through the Authors Alive on-demand library.
  • Barnes Children’s Literature Festival produced an online At Home festival for 2020 that is still available to view for free. The line-up included Ade Adepitan, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Chris Riddell, Jeremy Strong and Ross Welford, to name just a few. (Suitable for KS1 and KS2.)
  • Bath Children’s Literature Festival is providing free access to its 2020 Reading is Magic Festival until the end of the current lockdown. Use the promotional code FREEMAGICBCLF to view the 25 event videos and podcasts, featuring authors such as Joseph Coelho, Cressida Cowell, Robin Stevens, and the creators of Supertato Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet. (Suitable for KS1 – KS3.)
  • You can still access the 2020 Hay Festival Digital Schools Programme and the accompanying teaching materials for free. There are 20 events from best-selling authors such as Michelle Paver, Bali Rai, Onjali Q Rauf and Lucy Worsley. (Suitable for KS2 – KS4.)
  • Seven Stories is running a programme of live streamed Authors into Schools events during lockdown. Events last approximately 45 minutes and are available to view for up to 24 hours after the live streaming. Schools must register to access the private YouTube link and are asked to buy a set of books by the relevant author to the value of £70 in order to take part.
  • The Bristol-based Storytale Festival ran a free online festival for 2020 that is still available on YouTube. There are 12 events ranging from Feel-good Fiction for Teens to tips on how to start your own adventure story with author Katharine Orton. (Suitable for KS1 – KS3.)

Online Author Visits

And finally, if you are looking for something more tailored to your class or school, many authors are still providing online workshops. If you have a specific author in mind, you may be able to contact them directly via their website. Alternatively, there are a number of organisations that can help you find the right author for your needs. You may also be interested to read these two blogs from authors SF Said and Tom Palmer about running an author visit during a pandemic.

  • Authors Abroad can help you organise a visit from a range of authors, storytellers and poets, with virtual visits also available.
  • Authors Aloud have a wide choice of authors, poets, illustrators and storytellers on their books, many of whom are now also doing virtual author visits.
  • Authorfy has a directory of over 60 authors and illustrators that do in-school events.
  • Contact an Author provides a search facility to help you find an author that matches your requirements.
  • Speaking of Books work with a number of well-known authors, including Michael Rosen and Anne Fine.
  • The Society for Storytelling hosts a directory of storytellers from across the country.
  • Virtual Authors UK is a directory of children’s authors, illustrators and poets that offer virtual visits to schools.

Don’t forget: you can find more resources to help you meet the demands of the literacy curriculum on the Literacy Hive website. Start your search here.


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