Falling in Love with Words —
Two nights ago I went to a workshop called ‘A Continued Sense of Wonder’.
Hosted at the awesome Dunedin Public Library, the workshop was about children’s literature. It’s to be held quarterly, and is open to anyone with an interest in kids books. Best of all, it’s totally FREE!
What did I learn?
This group reminded me of how central a book can be in a child’s life.
We each brought a book that had resonated with us, either as a kid or as an adult. Books ranged from Tintin’s Explorers On the Moon to The Illuminae Files, and we each had an interesting story about why this particular book was, or had been, important to us.
(Rather cheekily, I brought along my own book, The Prankster and the Ghost, because to be honest, this is the kid’s book that has touched me the most. I learned an awful lot about myself while writing it, and I wanted to share a little of that experience.)
Why we like stories
We talked about how a favourite book provided a pathway into fantasy. ‘I used to imagine myself as Laura Ingalls Wilder, playing in the prairies.’
Books provided street cred: ‘I was the only girl in my class who had read a book eight times!’
Books created friendships: ‘I biked round to my friend’s house to read her books’.
Books provided escape: ‘It was awfully soothing, just reading and listening to the waves.’
Books are important to us
We hold our favourite books gently. We smile as we talk about them and we turn the pages slowly, with reverence. If we’re talking to others about the book, we tip the book to share the pictures inside. Books carry more than a story; they carry memories; they remind us of a time we were happy.
Through stories, kids make sense of the world.
The evening reminded me again of just how much I had loved reading as a kid – oh, the memories! Mum coming home from the library with a bag full of books; picture books for the little kids, chapter books for us older ones. And the excitement of going to the library by myself, with my own library card. Reading by torchlight when I was supposed to be asleep; of the disappointment of watching Little House on the Prairie and realising it was nothing like the book.
How stories have changed, and how they’ve stayed the same.
I used to read books that had been translated. Heidi, Pippi Longstocking, Asterix. It’s much harder now to find translated works for kids (The Gecko Press is doing some great work in this space).
Thirty years ago, the plots of kids books had a slower pace, and frequently the words were more complex.
But many of the great novels are still as loved as they’ve always been. Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking is as unorthodox and fun as ever – who wouldn’t love to have a horse on a verandah? Charlotte’s Web still makes kids cry. And children cheer when the Peach leaves with James inside.
Kids today are even luckier than we were because now they have Harry Potter!
Remembering the importance of books
Sadly, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the enjoyment your work provides others. Perhaps I need to remind the marketers of this when they talk about ‘what is the unique selling point of your book?’: It’s not about my book – it’s about all books. Writers are not in competition with each other.
Caught up in the drive to update the Facebook page, to increase the word count, to promote one’s work, sometimes its good to step back and remember: we write because we love it.
We write because, once upon a time, we fell in love with reading.
What was your favourite book as a child? What’s the first book you remember reading? And now you’re an adult, what kids book do you love the most?
Dunedin Library’s A Sense of Wonder meets quarterly and is open to anyone who loves kids books (writers, readers, illustrators, librarians, parents, grandparents…). You can download the Fiction Highlights from the Children’s Collection here: Continued Sense of Wonder 1 Booklist
Just for fun, I’ve added links to the Amazon holdings of all the books mentioned in this post!