Author, storyteller and infant specialist Cat Weatherill explains how reading for children can be magic – for author and reader.
How did you get involved in writing books for children?
I was working in schools as a storyteller, and children began to ask me where MY book was. It didn’t make sense to them that I had a head full of stories but wasn’t writing any of them down. This was 2002. Harry Potter was flying high, and there was such a hunger for books about magic, from both readers and publishers, I thought I should at least have a go! It took me three years to write my first novel, Barkbelly, but it was accepted by Puffin and suddenly I had a second career.
At what point did you realise that reading books aloud to children proved challenging for some authors?
Last year I was approached by a children’s illustrator, who asked me if I offered training in presenting picture books to infants. I was amazed to hear she had illustrated 40 books but never done a school visit. So I invited her along to one I was doing and threw her in at the deep end, by suggesting she present her book too!
As I watched her, I realised there were many simple things she could do to expand the session and engage more easily with the children. These are the things I now teach in my workshops.
What is your golden rule when it comes to presenting picture books to children?
Get as close to them as possible. Of course, this is very difficult when you are asked to do an assembly for 200 children. How on earth do they see the pictures? This is something else we look at in the picture book presenting workshop.
How do you think learning about performance can enhance authors’ careers?
It brings confidence, and that is invaluable. These days it is simply not enough to write the books. Publishers want you out there in the marketplace, actively promoting and selling. You are expected to do festival and school sessions – a truly scary prospect for someone who has never done it before, or someone who does it but always feels anxious.
What do you hope participants get out of your workshops?
Reassurance and greater confidence. Lots of practical ideas and tips. We explore two areas: the emotional content of the session and how it is presented. Participants also get the opportunity to help and be inspired by others, which is always lovely.
Join Cat Weatherill at her workshops on the following dates:
Cat Weatherill is a bestselling author and storyteller. In a twenty-year career, she has read with thousands of children in hundreds of schools, and she especially loves working with infants. Her latest picture book is Breathe. Find out more: www.catweatherill.co.uk