The Future is Theirs

Finally everything seems to have calmed down at the Langley-Hawthorne household – Dad’s recovery is going well, Jasper’s cough no longer elicits shrieks of horror and Sam’s face is healing nicely after he and the asphalt collided last Monday. I’ve been to see doctors, dentists and teachers and we now seem to be in the clear (touch wood…) for this week at least.

On Thursday, I went into my sons’ classrooms to talk about ‘being an author’ as part of their school’s ‘book week’. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what reception I’d get with the 6 year-old set but I was pleasantly surprised – I think the long touted ‘death of the book’ has been grossly overstated. At least among kindergarteners, we authors rule (though, of course, I was no where near as cool as a children’s book author would have been).

The most telling moment was when I asked the class if any of them ever wanted to write their stories down or write a book – literally all the hands sailed into the air (even both teachers’!). The desire to listen to and tell stories is alive and well (thankfully) and for that, I think every author can take heart. Stories have not lost their significance – no matter what the delivery format (e-books, paperbacks, hardbacks, papyrus…) books still remain integral to many children’s lives.

Now of course I am totally biased, as I shamelessly inflict reading on my boys in every shape and form. We listen to audiobooks on the way to and from school (we just finished the Harry Potter series), sit down and read picture books as well as chapter books every night, and the boys see me reading research books, magazines, newspapers (sadly only iPad versions now) all the time. It would be nice to think this was normal for everyone, but even if it’s not, I took comfort from seeing all the eager faces in the classroom as I spoke. There was no child who sighed or looked bored and no child who groaned at the thought of having to hear about stories. Hurray! I thought, my confidence in the future of books restored.

Some of the questions I got were pretty off the wall, from “If you write all day how do have time to make lunch?” to “How do you write so neat and straight?”. Other questions prompted a few heart palpitations (“What do you do when you run out of ideas?”) and I had to laugh at the responses I got, when I asked how long they thought it took someone to write a book. “An hour,” said one little girl. “20 million years,” said a little boy. I compromised and said somewhere between the two.

It was so inspiring to see all these kids excited to learn about books and writing. It was only when I was sitting in my car afterwards, that I suddenly thought about all the adults out there who have lost their love of reading. When does that happen? How does such promise and eager appreciation for stories get snuffed out?

At least we can all take heart that, among 6 year olds, we are celebrities. Long may that continue:)

PS: Any one got any ideas for what my boys can listen to next – after finishing the Harry Potter series we are quite bereft. We have Roald Dahl and some Enid Blyton but what we really need is a juicy new children’s series!