Authors reach out to schools via penpal scheme

Authors reach out to schools via penpal scheme

More than 30 children’s authors are recommending books to schools via a new penpal scheme.

AuthorPenPals, set up by writer Kate Scott, pairs schools with authors, who send postcards to pupils recommending books they might want to read. The authors commit to taking part for the length of one school year (September to July) and send postcards once a month. In return, the pupils can reply with reactions to the recommended books.

To date, 31 authors have signed up, including Chitra Soundar, Mike Revell and Michelle Harrison, and 85 schools have joined the waiting list, said Scott.

The idea stemmed from a desire to inspire children and encourage authors to share their love of reading, Scott said.

“I had been wondering how to make more connections with schools at a time when school budgets for visits are extremely tight. I had also been looking at the teetering pile of children’s books by my bed and realising that the majority of children’s authors read in the same way,” she told The Bookseller.

“I knew that the idea had to use an approach that wouldn’t be too costly or time-consuming for authors or schools to take up – which led me to postcards. I also thought kids might engage more deeply to something they can actually hold, put up on a wall, or carry around than they would to a tweet or an email.”

Scott launched the scheme on Twitter and said the list is expanding “daily”.

“I’ve had fifteen enquiries from schools in the last hour so I expect these numbers to grow within days,” she said.

She has also had interest from Malta, Canada and the US and said several American authors are going to develop the scheme as part of their own programme #KidsNeedMentors.

“AuthorPenPals is an easy, low-cost and time-efficient way for authors to establish relationships with schools and share their passion for children’s books with the very audience those books need to reach. I’m hoping that even those children’s authors who are struggling financially (that’s most of us!) might be able to afford a postcard a month,” said Scott. “It’s also a way to get the word out about more diverse books, older but less well-known classics, or books that authors have read and loved but which have received little marketing or publicity."