Virtual visits need to be arranged directly with the author or illustrator through their own web sites, which can be found using the links on this site's home page, but here is some general advice.

What do authors do on a virtual visit?

This is entirely up to the school and the author, but here's what I usually do during my free 20 minute Skype sessions. After saying hello to the class, I do a 5-10 minute reading (a whole picture book or a fiction excerpt) and then spend the remaining time answering the students's questions. However schools sometimes want to use the time to show something to me. Some schools have shown me short performance or presentations inspired by one of my books. Other schools have shared the results of 'favourite book' votes, with individual students telling me about their favourite page in their favourite book.

What you need for a Skype Virtual Visit

Technical Requirements

  • SOFTWARE: You’ll need to install Skype on your computer and set up an account. You can download Skype for free here.

  • WEBCAM / MICROPHONE: The webcam should be positioned as close as possible to the screen the students will be looking at, so that authors can see the students' faces looking towards them. If you're using a separate microphone, this should be positioned so that the author can hear the students clearly.

  • SCREEN: Ideally the computer should be connected to a large TV screen or white board projector, but as long as there is a screen of some sort that the students can see the author on this is not essential. If you're using a projector in a brightly lit room, it's a good idea to turn off the lights or close the blinds near the screen or whiteboard so that the students can see the author more clearly. The web-cam should be next to the screen if possible, so that the author can see the students' faces looking towards them.

  • SPEAKERS: Sound is important! The students will need to be able to hear the author clearly. Your computer’s built-in speakers may not be loud enough for their voice to carry to the back of the room, so you might need to use some louder, plug-in speakers or the TV’s speakers if you’re using a TV screen.

PLEASE NOTE: Many authors and illustrators won’t have the time or technical expertise to offer technical assistance, so if you are new to Skype make sure that you have Skype installed and you have familiarised yourself with how to use it by making some video calls BEFORE you book a virtual visit with an author or illustrator. If you are intending to use external sound and video and have not done this before, it’s a good idea to test these in advance too.

Other Requirements

  • If the author or illustrator is offering a free visit, schools should have at least one copy of the book the author or illustrator is going to be reading: This is especially important for picture books as half of their appeal is the illustrations, so it's a good idea to have someone beside the screen holding up the book and turning the pages so the students can see the pictures as the story is read on screen.

  • Some questions prepared in advance: If your visit includes a Q&A session, you'll get a lot more out of it if the students have some questions prepared in advance.

  • A room full of enthusiastic students: Students will enjoy a virtual visit much more if they are already familiar with the author's books and are anticipating the visit. Arrange for the library service to provide you with a selection of the author's books before the visit – or you might even buy a few.* Set up a book display in your classroom. Feature the visit as an upcoming event in school newsletters and include the author's web site address (if they have one).

* While book purchases should not be a requirement of any "free" visits offered through this site, some authors may provide book lists or order forms to make it easier for schools to arrange for books sales to coincide with their virtual visit. Authors might also offer to send out signed book plates for any books purchased in this way.

Skype sessions should not be recorded without the author or illustrator's prior permission.

Feedback from schools

Here’s some feedback author Kerry Drewery received after one of her virtual visits

"It was a really successful and inspirational event both for myself and the staff and students involved. Kerry is a very open and approachable person which made the process very easy for both myself and the students involved, especially with this being our first attempt at using Skype. Her open and friendly manner encouraged our students to fully engage with her and ask the questions important to them. It was great for the students to see an author in their own environment and working space, as it is so rare that you get the opportunity to do so and it gave the chat a very personal feel, as it was tailored to the group of students and their work, which is often not achievable with usual author visits."

Garforth Academy, Yorkshire, UK


And here's some feedback I received after one of my own virtual visits

“We thought the session was fantastic - just what we needed, a real life author to give out the messages we continually say … It is a brilliant opportunity to speak with you virtually and move into the 21st century! … The session was very clear and just the right time for year 3.”

Corrie Primary School, Manchester, UK

Return to home page