Thursday, September 19th, 2019

Why You MUST Write That Children’s Book

I was recently interviewed for the esteemed blog “Cynsations,” run by the very talented YA author Cynthia Leitich Smith.  It was a real honor – Cynthia’s site is among the most respected, and followed, in the Kid Lit blogosphere – but it also gave me an opportunity to reflect on a core value of mine, and attempt to better articulate it.

The question I was asked was: What are the particular challenges you think we (meaning children’s book authors, editors, educators, advocates, lovers of children’s literature) face?

This was my response:

“I think one of the challenges is keeping young people’s skill and interest in reading high enough to take advantage of the opportunities that will be waiting for them.

In my book Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment (Beech Tree Books, 2008), I talk about how much reading skills correspond to our ability to be confident, engaged, informed citizens. They affect how well we communicate, succeed in school and in our chosen careers, and ultimately our level of personal fulfillment. In fact, order to participate fully in society and the workplace in 2020 and beyond, we will all need powerful literacy abilities. But with all that competes for our attention these days, from television to the internet to electronic games and social networking, we face the possibility of a serious decline in the reading and writing skills of the next generation.

Our strength as readers and writers is profoundly influenced by how much of it we do – the more we read, the easier it gets. The easier it gets, the more we enjoy it, so the more we read. But we have to start by actually reading – and the key lies in making that activity as attractive as all the other temptations out there. We achieve that by focusing on activities that support the joy in reading (as opposed to reading as chore, or duty)…and by ensuring that what is being read is so good that the reader gets hooked and comes back for more.

That’s why I’m dedicated to supporting children’s book authors in the continued development of their craft. We have a huge responsibility on our hands. It only takes one great book to turn someone on to reading… but those great books need to keep being written and gotten into the hands of children!”

This is why you must write that book. If you have ever felt that nudge… that gentle (or perhaps, at this point, nagging) whisper in your ear to get that idea down on paper, I am here to hold you accountable. We can only keep the next generation (and those after that) reading, and writing – and using creative expression to solve problems and promote awareness, and cultivate compassion, and address the issues before them with artfulness and thought – if we continue to provide them with the tools to do so.  And the first (and best, in my view) is a good book.

So, get writing. Who knows? You may be the next Madeleine L’Engle… but even if your story touches just one child, one heart, that’s reason enough for it to exist.  One might even say you have a responsibility to put it out there.

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One Response to “Why You MUST Write That Children’s Book”
  1. gary says:

    Dear Emma,
    Your statement: “But with all that competes for our attention these days, from television to the internet to electronic games and social networking, we face the possibility of a serious decline in the reading and writing skills of the next generation.”
    ………….is on target and expresses my own worry about the generation who follows behind me. I’ve seen first hand, the slackened approach to the fundamentals of literature, grammar, reading. I’m rusty as hell when it comes to my own, but to know that there are young adults graduating from high school and college without a solid background in these areas is chilling.

    I had the misfortune of a complicated youth, absent of reading and the nourishment that it can and does provide. It was a long road to come as far as I have but along the way, I somehow saw and understood the value in the elements of grammar, spelling, reading.

    My nephews are of high school age, have avidly read all of their lives and consistently rank in the upper 5-10% of their class. I am often asked to edit my nephews’ writing assignments as well as, nightly editing of Food Safety Audits (of all things!). The professionally contracted audits that companies spend thousands on, leave me wondering what the hell is going on? Despite my own education deficits, I am stunned by the poor spelling, incomplete thoughts, jumbled logic etc. of both.

    I can only conclude that the competition for our attentions in this electronic age (and within the “living out loud” social networks) has a stronger hold on us than I would like to think.

    Thanks for the soap box rental. I value your thoughts and ideas.
    Warmest regards,

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