BookTalks – an initiative using online technology to link authors and readers, will be launched on May 10 to coincide with the New Zealand Post Book Awards.
Organised by research and professional development organisation CORE Education, BookTalks will utilise the internet video telephone system Skype to allow readers, initially in schools across the country, to talk online with their favourite authors and illustrators.
Already nearly 30 prominent authors from around New Zealand have signed up for BookTalks, and internationally renowned author Margaret Mahy has agreed to be the BookTalks Patron.
Using the www.booktalks.org.nz website, schools can go online and select which author they would like to connect with. CORE Education will then look at availability and match up authors with schools. Authors will receive a fee for their session and a small charge will cover administrative costs.
“It’s wonderful to be able to talk live over the internet, and it adds a coolness for the kids to say they talked with an author using Skype,” The Wonky Donkey author Craig Smith says.
Craig skyped a pilot BookTalks session with children at Outram School near Dunedin.
“I’ve skyped heaps, but this is my first performance via Skype. It was fantastic,” he says.
The Outram children asked Craig why he wrote the story, how long it took him, whether he had other stories and even how to pronounce “hee-haw”.
Outram School Principal Greg Carroll says BookTalks is a highly valuable programme because it brings people into the classroom who can't actually physically be there.
"It is a good opportunity for the kids to engage with a real person, to be able to see them, someone who can't obviously visit our school but the children can still talk to them, engage with them, have a conversation with them about their book and about the process and about what it means to be a real author. It was great. The kids had a ball; they really enjoyed it," Mr Carroll says.
CORE Education Project Manager Matt Tippen has received support from Booksellers New Zealand and the New Zealand Book Council, and encouragement from many educators.
“BookTalks will provide real-time, meaningful conversations about NZ literature – that can only have a positive effect on our next generation’s interest in literacy and literature. And it’s a way of modeling how effective online communications can be in education,” Mr Tippen says.
He envisages that book clubs, writing course organisers and writers’ groups might also be interested in BookTalks.
“We’re initially targeting educational settings, but we’d love to hear from others who would like the chance to talk to their favourite authors,” he says.
To get the details, visit the BookTalks site www.booktalks.org.nz.