Tag Archives: children’s fiction

Happy International Literacy Day!!

The Literacy Site blog informs me that today is International literacy day, and in celebration I thought I would share my experience of the importance of literacy.

Now, I don’t remember my first book, but knowing my mother it was read to me and at a very young age.  By young, I mean before I had a conscious concept of myself much less something so abstract as a book.  I have no doubt that it was something like The Little Engine That Could, or Green Eggs and Ham, or some other childhood classic.  It is to this that I attest my obsession with growing my collection of children’s books.  That is in circles where the explanation, “Because I like children’s books” is not an acceptable enough reason for such a collection.

However, if I were to rely on the memory of my childhood bookshelves and boxes eventually given to the used bookstore, I would guess that I have read or been read, at least, the following:

  • Caps for Sale
  • How to Eat Fried Worms
  • The Velveteen Rabbit
  • Curious George      
  • Goodnight Moon
  • Charlotte’s Web    
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
  • The Giving Tree  
  • Madeline 
  • The Monster at the End of this Book
  • James and the Giant Peach   
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but I have no specific memory of reading these or any other childhood books.  None whatsoever.  I’m sure that I’ve read them, of course.  I mean they sat in my room until I was 10, but of most of them, I couldn’t recite a single line.  

My passion for the importance of reading and advocating for literacy education comes from the books that I do remember – the books that meant something, and continue to mean something today.  Some of them were integral to my understanding of human nature.  Some of them helped me cope with the challenges I have faced in my life.  Some of them touched me so deeply that I still carry with me the same feeling that I had when I shut the cover every time I think of them.  And some of them were just plain fun!  

It was recommended to me once that I write a memoir, and I remember thinking, who would read a memoir about me?  What would I write about?  I’m not that interesting, or at least nothing of interest has really happened to me.  A straight memoir about my life can be summed up in a few words: Born in suburbs; Attended public school; 2.5 adorable children and a dog (of which I was one – the children, not the dog).  As you can see, there isn’t a lot there.  Pretty much every other kid in suburbia has had my life.  We are not the Kennedys; we are not the Jacksons; we are not the Clintons; we’re not even the Joneses – although we were the first ones in my neighborhood to own a CD player and, I think, a computer.  So you see, I wasn’t even deprived of anything, except the Power Wheels I always wanted.   And why didn’t I get the Power Wheels?  Because my parents agreed that they wanted my brother and I to have self-propelling vehicles to encourage activity and exercise.  That’s right.  I don’t even have a weight problem.  What the could I possibly write about in a memoir?

But a trip to the bookstore made me see things in a different light. As I browsed the shelves, both in the children’s section and general fiction, I saw book after book which, for me, defined a certain experience or time in my life  As I walked out, and got in my car, I started thinking of my life in books, and when I did that I found remembering a book that I read made me remember a specific event, which for one reason or another, was tied to it.  Maybe it was because the book made an event more meaningful, or maybe I read the book during a secure or happy time and it brings me a contented feeling, or maybe I had to stand in line for an hour because all of a sudden Everybody In The World has to have the latest Harry Potter.  Whatever the reason, it turns out I can associate most of the memories I have with one book or another.  Just like one song can bring you back to your high school prom, so can one book touch you so deeply that it will remain with you forever.  That is the importance of literacy.

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S – Storytelling: An Art of Legends

When I was in high school, I was a part of a competing debate, speech, and interpretive performance team. (You might be familiar with the word “Forensics” in this context, but as you might imagine I get some weird looks if I just leave it at, “I was on my high school Forensics team”.)

I never participated in the debate or public speaking events that were available. It wasn’t my thing. I was an actress – a performer – so, naturally I chose the interpretive and performance events.

One of these events was storytelling, which is exactly what it sounds like. I enjoyed it so much that I became interested in the art form – another unfortunate victim of modernity.

Yes, as writers we are storytellers in the strictest sense of the word. We tell stories. But the art form of storytelling is altogether different from what we do. Storytellers interpret the stories they are telling. They are performers who know their stories inside and out. It is from this tradition – dating back to our most primitive ancestors and earliest civilizations – that acting, dance, and music developed. And those that do it well are as captivating as any of your favorite performers.

But, with the invention of the printing press, the advances in technologies that made the manufacture and distribution of books more widespread, and the rise in literacy rates across the globe, the art of storytelling has become something of an antiquated novelty.

Luckily, Storytelling festivals and events are fairly common around the country. One of the best known occurs annually in TN not too far from where I grew up.

Here are some websites to visit for information if you are interested in learning more, or just want a fun way to spend some time with family and friends!

National Storytelling Network – This is an organization that “brings together and supports individuals that use the power of story in all its forms”.

DMOZ: Arts  – this directs you to a site which claims it is “the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web”.  Regardless of the truth of that claim, this list covers a lot of area.

International Storytelling Center – This is a nonprofit organization that is “dedicated to inspiring and empowering people across the world to accomplish goals and make a difference by discovering, capturing, and sharing their stories.

From these sites you should be able to find any regional storytelling event or festival near you.  I highly recommend checking one out!

 

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C – Children’s Fiction, It’s Not Just For Kiddos Anymore!

I am a proud, educated, 33 year old woman, who loves Children’s Fiction. I can list my top 5 favorite books for you right now, and three (arguably four) of them would be considered children’s stories.

1. The Little Prince

2. The Chronicles of Narnia

3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

4. The Lord of the Rings (including the Hobbit)

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

(Yes, I recognize that “technically” that is a lot more than 5 books to most people, but in my head a continuous story equates to one book – I’ll grant you – in multiple volumes.)

So as you can see, the vast majority of my favorite books are children’s stories, and I am proud of this. I think my favorite books are some of the best stories ever written; why else would I call them my favorites? But more than this, I’ve loved children’s fiction more than I can express. If it weren’t for classic children’s literature, like The Secret Garden and Tom Sawyer, I would not have developed quite the love of reading that I have.

Unfortunately, despite this passion, I find myself unable to write children’s fiction. However often I try, I just can’t find a subject matter appropriate for a young audience. In the past, when I have tried, the story has gotten away from me developing adult themes, and including language that I’m fairly certain most parents would be at least hesitant to allow their children to read. (Okay, that last bit is not so much the story’s fault as mine, but if I’m already moving into adult themes, why censor myself?)  One would think years of reading these stories would make writing an appropriate, nice little children’s story easy for me.

Well, it turns out I may not be too off the mark when it comes to stories for children.  The truth is a lot of classic children’s stories deal with some pretty heavy themes.  The Secret Garden: the importance of companionship; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time: coping with loss.  And of course, the themes of The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter books deal with darker issues such as the nature of evil, dangers of desire, and mortality.  So, maybe I should try my hand at this again.

 

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Dr. Seuss Can Do It. Can You?

Anyone out there interested in writing for children?   I’ve always wanted to, but I find I’m not very good at it.  I never have been, even when I was a child.  So, here’s a writing exercise and challenge for all of us.

Write a story – ideally for children, but it doesn’t have to be – between 500 – 600 words, using only the Dolch Word List.  (If you’re like me, the limited word count is challenge enough.)

When I’ve finished the challenge myself, (and if my results are at all decent) I’ll post the story here.

Have fun, and good luck.  I know I’ll need it!

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