“So when are you going to write a real book?”
Children’s writers in my audience are probably groaning right now, because this is a question we’ve all been asked at least once. Most of us come back with an expression of comically-exaggerated confusion and something along the lines of “As opposed to all of the imaginary ones?” Inside, though, we are typically seething with rage or welling up with existential despair, because what the questioner really means is “When are you going to write a book for adults?” The implication, of course, being that books for kids are in some way lesser. Or at least, of lesser importance.
I argue, however, that books for kids are actually MORE important than books for adults.
Exhibit A – this article from The National Post, one of many that hit the internet last week:
In case you missed it, the bottom line is that people (read: adults) are terrible judges of the scope and validity of our own knowledge. Those of us who know the least about a topic are convinced we know the most… and therefore are the most resistant to new ideas on the topic.
This is not a problem with (most) children and teens. Kids are completely aware of the fact that they don’t know everything – and what’s more, they are hungry to learn. Even kids that say they don’t like school tend to be voracious consumers of data on the subjects they do care about. And if you show kids why information is interesting or relevant, you can get them fired up to learn about just about anything.
Case in point – the grade 7s and 8s at the local school I visited on Friday. We had a fabulous discussion about forensic science, during which the kids not only paid rapt attention, but asked cogent questions that showed they were connecting the new info I was giving them with things they already knew. Several of them thanked me afterward for the cool presentation, or told me that they want to be scientists when they grow up.
Those are the kinds of impacts that only children’s writers get to have – more than any other kind of writer, we have the power to open minds to new ideas. We do school visits because it’s absolutely thrilling to watch those sparks ignite in real time.
And that is why I will (probably) never write a book for adults.
What about you? What were your favourite factual obsessions as a kid? What books do you still remember reading, and how did they shape the person you are today?