Monday, August 29, 2011

The Future is Theirs



Finally everything seems to have calmed down at the Langley-Hawthorne household - Dad's recovery is going well, Jasper's cough no longer elicits shrieks of horror and Sam's face is healing nicely after he and the asphalt collided last Monday. I've been to see doctors, dentists and teachers and we now seem to be in the clear (touch wood...) for this week at least.

On Thursday, I went into my sons' classrooms to talk about 'being an author' as part of their school's 'book week'. Honestly, I wasn't sure what reception I'd get with the 6 year-old set but I was pleasantly surprised - I think the long touted 'death of the book' has been grossly overstated. At least among kindergarteners, we authors rule (though, of course, I was no where near as cool as a children's book author would have been).

The most telling moment was when I asked the class if any of them ever wanted to write their stories down or write a book - literally all the hands sailed into the air (even both teachers'!). The desire to listen to and tell stories is alive and well (thankfully) and for that, I think every author can take heart. Stories have not lost their significance - no matter what the delivery format (e-books, paperbacks, hardbacks, papyrus...) books still remain integral to many children's lives.

Now of course I am totally biased, as I shamelessly inflict reading on my boys in every shape and form. We listen to audiobooks on the way to and from school (we just finished the Harry Potter series), sit down and read picture books as well as chapter books every night, and the boys see me reading research books, magazines, newspapers (sadly only iPad versions now) all the time. It would be nice to think this was normal for everyone, but even if it's not, I took comfort from seeing all the eager faces in the classroom as I spoke. There was no child who sighed or looked bored and no child who groaned at the thought of having to hear about stories. Hurray! I thought, my confidence in the future of books restored.

Some of the questions I got were pretty off the wall, from "If you write all day how do have time to make lunch?" to "How do you write so neat and straight?". Other questions prompted a few heart palpitations ("What do you do when you run out of ideas?") and I had to laugh at the responses I got, when I asked how long they thought it took someone to write a book. "An hour," said one little girl. "20 million years," said a little boy. I compromised and said somewhere between the two.

It was so inspiring to see all these kids excited to learn about books and writing. It was only when I was sitting in my car afterwards, that I suddenly thought about all the adults out there who have lost their love of reading. When does that happen? How does such promise and eager appreciation for stories get snuffed out?

At least we can all take heart that, among 6 year olds, we are celebrities. Long may that continue:)

PS: Any one got any ideas for what my boys can listen to next - after finishing the Harry Potter series we are quite bereft. We have Roald Dahl and some Enid Blyton but what we really need is a juicy new children's series!




21 comments:

  1. That was very heartening to hear, thank you. Gee, some adults think you can write a book in an hour too. 8-) Funny responses and questions.

    Though I am able to read more now that I got a Kindle at the beginning of the year, it is still far less than I read as a kid. Of course I had no responsibilities, no stressors, and the weight of the world hadn't yet had time to decend on my shoulders. Not with just reading in particular, I think some of the fun gets squashed out of you as an adult, just as adults often become more cynical with age.

    Thank God for my Kindle, which helps bring some of that reading joy back.

    And thanks for optimistic posts like this one, that remind us that all is far from lost in the world of stories. I hope writers will continue to build that excitement among young readers so they'll have a habit for a lifetime.

    BK Jackson
    http://www.bkjackson.blogspot.com

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  2. Yeah sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who reads anymore. Nowadays it seems everyone just watches Dexter and True Blood.

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  3. Taylor, I know what's up with everyone 'watching' what they could be reading...laziness, that's what! BK I don't read anywhere near what I used to, but I also am thankful for the electronic library I can now carry with me everywhere I go on my iPad. And thank goodness for kids otherwise I would be convinced when I see how little other people read, that the book is indeed an endangered species.

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  4. Clare, it's good to hear your household is getting back to normal. My wife is a 3rd grade public school teacher. I'm glad your experience went well as a visiting author because I think I'm going to be making a similar appearance soon during their book week. Should be fun.

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  5. Clare--- Are your sons too young for the Redwall series by Brian Jaques? My sons devoured those books. However, as they are adults now, I can't remember how old they were when they started that series.

    My boys read and read and read as children. Still do. My youngest (now 24) is also on his second manuscript. He has become a writer, as well. So, there you are.

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  6. Good luck Joe! Kathleen, it's lovely to hear your kids are still readers (and writers too)! I will take a look at the Redwall series - thanks!

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  7. Harry Potter in audio is a tough act to follow. I enjoyed it better than the books because as a midwesterner, my internal ear for accents is made of tin. The narrator was first rate.

    I'm doing the big clean-out project, opening boxes covered in at least two decades worth of dust. In one, I found childhood gold.

    When I was young, we moved a lot and didn't have much. From a garage sale came one of those young reader's classics sets. I read them over and over until the bindings wore thin. In this box were the last three to survive all the moves - Pinnochio, The Peterkin Papers and Grimms Fairy Tales. After all these years, the magic still worked.

    Books may change form, but they aren't going anywhere.

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  8. Glad to hear life has returned to normal. Kids are so precious. I am the Sunday School director of my church and so am surrounded by 4-11 year olds all day at least once a week. I occasionally do school stuff as well to help out a couple of teacher friends, even though my own kids are homeschooled. It is always a blast working with children. One of the things that has always blown me away is how many kids remember you, even if you only saw them once twenty years ago. A while back I had an attractive young woman in her early twenties approach me to ask if I remember her (imagine my wife's surprise). While I did not recognize her, she did recognize me as having been a Sunday School teacher fifteen years earlier when she was 8 years old and even remembered details of some of how I presented the characters I was acting out way back when. These kids will remember you for a long time Clare.

    I concur on Redwall, definitely check it out my kids love it. My boys have both read and listened to the audio of that series. It is one of the best made audio books/audio dramas I have ever listened to. Oh, yeah, I listened to the whole thing with them, that good. Also my youngest (10) just finished the Owls of Ga'Hoole and is now reading Swordbirds. He loves those.

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  9. Have you tried Paddington Bear?

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  10. Not sure how old your kids are, but a series of radio broadcasts from 1952 adapting the Horatio Hornblower books are available for free streaming and/or download at:

    http://www.archive.org/details/Adventures_of_Horatio_Hornblower

    I LOVE the Hornblower books.

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  11. Glad to hear it. 'Sometimes when it rains, it pours' to quote a cliche.

    Kids lose their love of reading after it becomes a requirement. So be careful of that o biased one. ;)

    I haven't read them, but the Rick Riordan books are quite popular around here now that the Harry Potter series has ended. I was disappointed with the one movie though. As a parent, you should preview the movie first depending on what age your children are and what you want to expose them too. Again, I haven't read the books they're based on (yet). It's on my to-do list as I've heard good things.

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  12. I'm glad everyone's better!
    Kids are always fun! I teach a kids' clogging(similar to tap dancing) class, and help out in kids' church. My siblings are always getting a ton of books from the library. One of my favorite things to do with them is read. :)
    The Redwall Series is really good.

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  13. I'm glad to hear everyone is on the mend in your household,Clare. Also nice to hear that you have some readers. My sons and daughters still read, but their friends don't seem to. Everyone is playing World of Warcraft.

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  14. I think it's tough getting kids to keep reading when there is so much else on offer - video games, wii etc. I just hope my boys will continue to love reading even when they get exposed to all the other entertainment options out there!

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  15. One way to keep them interested in reading, is to significantly restrict all those electronics. While some folks think its too hard to enforce, we only allow our kids 2 hours a week on their video games etc during the school year, and not more than an hour a day during the breaks. At first they griped, but eventually got used to it and end up spending an hour or two every reading instead.

    Down side of course, is that they've read most of what the library has in their interest and we sometimes scramble to find new stuff they like. But that's a nice down side.

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  16. I think if teachers focus on less commercial writing and instead make "required reading" materials more focused on literary prose, then the appeal for wanting to write will draw more talented youth into the realm. That's what the field of writing is lacking.

    If young people are writing with no guidance, then that's what will get published, because the young people are focused on commercial stuff and not the art of the message anymore.

    That's just my opinion.

    Great post that got my goose. :)

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  17. Basil, we haven't yet had to enforce any limits as we have just denied them any electronic games:) But that day will no doubt come very soon when we will have to enforce strong limits otherwise the electronica just takes over. Dana, the whole educating kids on reading and writing can get me riled up too. Luckily the boys are at a great school (of course, they invited me to speak didn't they:)!)

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  19. I love the Rick Riordian books- he's got a couple of series out - both good, but I like the greek stuff better than the Egyptian stuff. My nieces got me hooked on them. As for me- my dad used to read Arthur C Clark, Heinline, Ray Bradbury, AE VanVogt and the like to me and I LOVED them... still do. Can't go wrong with the classics.

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  20. great post! funny and touching.

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