Tuesday, June 12, 2018

100 WRITERS _____ Keep writing, always remember why young readers need new books from us

NOTE: This post is part of my 100 WRITERS community project. Learn more about it here.

Why should we make new books for young readers?

I’ve been asking myself this question for seven years.

It started when my two sons were old enough to enjoy going to the public library every weekend.

We’d spend hours discussing all the books that they enjoyed.

But we also discussed the books that they could never discover, no matter how hard they looked. Books that had yet to be created. For all sorts of reasons. See: #WeNeedDiverseBooks

And so, to fill this gap, we started creating our own books, mystery and adventure stories featuring Asian characters.

My sons and I wrote the stories together, illustrated them, and self-published our paperbacks. Which we managed to sell to our public libraries.

Eventually we were approached by local publishers who wanted to make books with us.

This whole experience has helped me feel the intellectual, emotional and social needs of my kids, when they go looking for books to read.

Here are three big reasons why I think our work matters. Keep writing from your heart.

#1: Kids dig the wordplay

More important than playing with toys or apps, is the ability to play with language.

We use puns, rhythms, the musicality of sentences, jokes, onomatopoeia, metaphors, all these and more, to show young readers what a wonderful resource we’ve inherited, and how we can create wonderful new worlds for ourselves with the artful use of language.

The more widely we read, the richer our sense of language, the more we can zoom, swoosh and whizzabapow our way through life.

Each time we graft one breathtaking meme onto another, and forge delightful new expressions, we’re reminding young readers how language is a treasure chest of never ending delights.

#2: Inspire affection for humanity

In our books, there will be nice people, but also selfish people, artists, philistines, heroes, cowards, heroes who believe they are cowards, cowards who think they are heroes, kings, queens, tyrants, saints, outcasts, selfish people, generous people, loving people, unlovable people, and many more.

Just as it is in the world out there.

Our books help kids appreciate their real life encounters so much more, because they have already spent time with similar characters in their favourite stories.

Illustrators are especially essential here. Animals, appliances, even odd and random shapes — a few talented strokes can bring these to life, as avatars of different states of human consciousness.

Our books show kids that bullies need standing up to. But sometimes they need a kind hug too.

#3: We offer companionship

Every book is a transfusion of creativity, craft and companionship, from writers, illustrators, editors, booksellers, and so on, the whole publishing ecosystem, to the young readers.

Kids experience this in every page that they turn.

They can sense the deep and timeless intention to connect and reassure.

In particular, they want to be reassured about the mysterious unfolding of life around them.

They want to know that the poor little one can turn out okay.

It’s what makes these stories such classics: The Ugly Duckling, Cinderella, David and Goliath.

Our books remind kids to see not just with their eyes, but also with their hearts.

I still lie awake at night, thinking up new ideas for making books for kids.

Wondering if there’s a child somewhere out there, lying in bed and hoping to find these same books.

A child who might grow up to make some pretty amazing books too. And keep the tradition going.

Wow, we are superheroes, we must be, to be part of something so epic.

— D

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