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Multimedia Moment: Learning about Authors through Videos from the National Book Festival

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This post was written by Tom Bober, the Library of Congress 2015-16 Audio-Visual Teacher in Residence. Over the course of his year as Teacher in Residence, Tom will be writing regular posts exploring different aspects of audio-visual materials in the Library’s collection and their use in the classroom.

Gene Luen Yang interviewed at the National Book Festival 2014
Gene Luen Yang interviewed at the National Book Festival 2014

January is a month for recognizing great authors: Gene Luen Yang was recently announced as the 2016-2017 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and various national awards celebrate other authors. January can also be a great time to learn more about hundreds of writers and their work by exploring videos of author talks from past National Book Festivals offered by the Library of Congress.

The videos range from picture book authors and illustrators to YA and adult authors. Authors speak about a recent book and sometimes read excerpts from their work.

I particularly enjoy the Q&A, when audience questions encourage authors to reveal more about themselves and their work. Some share what they loved to read as a child and why, how they became a published author, or moments of their lives that sparked an element or character in a book. Authors may describe their daily writing procedure, how they revise, and other elements of how they write.

Kate DiCamillo at 2015 National Book Festival
Kate DiCamillo at 2015 National Book Festival

Here are some ideas for including these talks in classroom instruction:

  • Encourage students to watch a talk as part of a larger author study. Several authors have multiple talks over several book festivals. What do they reveal in each talk?
  • Some authors discuss story themes or underlying messages for a specific book or multiple books they have written. What theme does a student identify in the story? How does hearing the author’s intended theme affect the student’s thinking?
  • Authors may share the origins of characters or plot points within their story. Does the connection of that story element to a real world person or event give it a new relevance within the story itself?

Whatever the reason for viewing the author talk, there are common benefits for students.

  • Hearing authors talk about titles they wrote or one that was a favorite for them as a child can encourage students to explore new titles or authors.
  • Authors sharing their writing, revising, and editing process can encourage students to take risks with their writing. A student’s favorite book can seem magical in its creation, and hearing about the process behind the writing of the story can make students’ writing seem more possible.
  • Author talks can demystify the idea of creativity for a student. Most authors discuss where their ideas come from, and hearing examples can lead students to the realization that writing ideas can come from almost anywhere.

National Book Festival talks can also be found by browsing the Library of Congress YouTube Playlists where author talks are organized by National Book Festival year.

Who is your favorite author who has given a talk at the National Book Festival?

Comments (2)

  1. I love the author videos as well. Listen to Katherine Applegate speak about the One and Only Ivan. And yes, the Q & A is always worth listening to the end.

    My other fave is Sherman Alexie – I heard him at the Book Festival a few years ago. My intention was to get there early to get a good seat for the following author. Imagine my surprise!

  2. Thank you for the post! The National Book Festival talks are wonderful. Prior years can be accessed on iTunes U as webcasts and podcasts. Will the 2015 Festival talks also be posted there? These are wonderful additions to classroom discussions on literature and writing.

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