Authors make a connection with remote students

Students from as far afield as Balranald enjoyed the rare chance to get inside the head of a published children's author at the recent Authors' Online videoconference.

Nineteen schools and 588 students across Years 3-6 took part with younger students (Years 3 and 4) chatting with children's author, Frances Watts (Goodnight Mice, A Rat in a Stripy Sock, Kisses for Daddy) and Years 5 and 6 students, talking with Geoffrey McSkimming (Cairo Jim series).

Linked to the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge, the Authors' Online series, presented by Dymocks Children's Charities and the Department of Education and Communities, aims to increase literacy skills and develop in children a love of reading.

It also aims to support students in remote and isolated schools by giving students the opportunity to meet authors, bringing them into the classroom via cyberspace. The sessions can also be used as a teaching tool for writing.

Students were able to ask questions via videoconference such as: "Who was your favourite author when you were little?" and "where do you get your inspiration to write books?"  

Ms Watts said it was an enjoyable experience and gave students a chance to "gain insight into the writing process and the construction of different kinds of texts, and to enhance their own ability to generate and express ideas through writing".

"Another very important aspect of these conferences is this 'live' engagement with authors can lead to a sense of personal connection to books and writings — one which, I hope, will stimulate a love of reading and writing in the participants."

Mr McSkimming said one of the joys of writing for him was "sharing my love of stories with younger readers".

"To be able to open up the world of literature is a great privilege, and to be able to take young readers on my journeys to different places and times - to be able to show them the marvels of language and the imagination - is what I love doing the best.

"The imagination is the best passport to a rich and full life, and vibrant stories are lifelong travelling companions."

Since it started in 2008, the Authors' Online series has reached more than 7000 students and more than 250 schools across NSW.

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