IWSG February Post – Why Write for Kids?

Fairy Tales

The Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis month’s IWSG post asks the question:

What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

Well, what’s not to love about children’s literature? I love writing for young audiences.  For teens in particular, but the idea of writing for children of any age thrills me.

Before I continue, however, allow me a moment to give a shout out to this month’s most excellent hosts: Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summontel. Thank you all for hosting this month’s IWSG blog hop.

Shout out finished, I’ll get on with it.

I am currently in my fourth and final semester of a low residency MFA program in creative writing at Lesley University. The program offers six concentrations: General Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Writing for Stage and Screen, Graphic Novels, and Writing for Young People. That last one is my focus.

I adore writing fiction for kids, specifically for teens, but broadly I just love writing for kids.

Why Write for Kids?

I suppose it started with my own kids.

[Disclaimer: I don’t like sharing too many personal details about my family members on this blog. This is, after all, my blog, not theirs. They have a right to privacy, especially my children. Who knows what they’ll grow up to become? I’ve no right to start generating their digital footprint and shaping what the online algorithms think of them.]

For this post, however, I will share the couched detail that one of my kids got off to a very rocky start with regard to learning to read, and because of a number of factors I won’t delve into, they were on the cusp of loathing reading by the time their sixth birthday rolled around.

Can you imagine how terrifying that was for me to watch? Me, who fell in love with reading long before I had the skill to do it on my own. Me, who used books to get through difficult periods in my life. Me, who loved fictional worlds and the characters that lived in them so much that I began creating my own when I was still in elementary school. Me? Have a child who hated reading?

There was only one thing to do. I ignored the advice of my child’s well-meaning but MCAS-driven and test-score-fearing teachers, and I did not sit my child down daily and force them to slog through the most awful, boring, black-and-white photocopied and stapled together early reader’s imaginable, struggling through tear-blurred vision to sound out the next word.   

Instead, I read to them.

Every night. Sometimes, for hours.  Until my voice grew hoarse and my throat began to burn.

Map from the Hobbit
My child loved this map, just as I did the first time I saw it!

I sat in my one-time nursing chair at the foot of their bed and worked through The Hobbit, then the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, then all seven of the Harry Potter books, then two-and-a-half of the Inheritance Cycle books, then the Inkspell books.

 

 

 

 

A funny thing happened during those years. Yes, it took us years to get through reading those books a bit at a time each night. My child grew older, their brain matured, their teachers worked with them during the day on the concrete skills of reading, and my child learned to love books and to love reading them.

They’re off and running on their own now, I’m pleased to say. They read voraciously, thank Thor.

Books for adults are all well and good. I read my fair share of them every year. Not so many since starting my MFA program, as you might imagine.

It’s just that books for children are, and I know I’m going to ruffle a few feathers with this sweeping declaration, far more important than books for adults. I mean, it’s kind of obvious when you stop and think about it. When did you fall in love with reading? When you were a kid, probably.  Some book touched your soul, gave you the big time feels, sent shivers down your spine, and woke you up for life.

That’s why I love writing for young people.

What was that first book that marked your soul, by the way? (For me, it was Bridge to Terabithia.)

Comments

  1. Pat Garcia

    I so agree. Books for children are so important. Kids learn about life when they read and they learn how to deal with issues that they cannot talk about to adults.
    So sorry that I’m just getting around to commenting on your blog.
    All the best.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

    1. Post
      Author
      Kathy

      Anne of Green Gables. Oh, that takes me back. I loved that series (I was secretly miffed that Anne gave up her teaching gig to be a full-time mom and wife to Gilbert. That was just my early feminist rearing her righteous head, though). Thanks for stopping by, and happy writing to you. 🙂

  2. Angela Wooldridge

    I have exactly that with my kids. I’ve always been a voracious reader and mine just aren’t fussed about it. 🙁 But I read to them and don’t force it. Although to me it’s a tragedy I also realise that they have to come to it in their own way.
    And I completely agree about books for kids being more important, without the first there’s unlikely to be a requirement for the second.
    Thanks for a great post.

    1. Post
      Author
      Kathy

      Glad you stopped by, Angela. The rush to get kids reading independently is, IMO, a mistake. I think it’s far smarter to cultivate a strong and positive emotional connection between children and books first, so that when their little brains finally come online and are ready for the actual task of reading, they’re eager and willing to learn.

  3. Post
    Author
    Kathy

    That moment when we connect deeply with a book for the first time is pretty incredible, isn’t it? Thanks for stopping by, and happy writing to you. 🙂

Have Thoughts? Do Share: