If we all have the stories inside – what happens to them for those of us who never let them out?
There’s an old saying that everyone has a book inside them just waiting to come out. If that is true, then the literature we encounter as a child must surely be deeply influential in the way we come to see ourselves as ‘authors’. I always love reading articles where authors speak of their favourite children’s books. I recall an article where Neil Gaiman spoke of his love of reading and re-reading the Narnia books and Wind in the Willows. Wendy Grieb says that Where the Wild Things Are has influenced “…every book idea that I have ever had.” http://mightymediapress.com/blog/feature-post-the-childrens-books-that-influence-our-authors-and-illustrators But if we all have the stories inside – what happens to them for those of us who never let them out?
So many children (and adults) question the value of their stories and lack confidence in their ability to communicate them. It was a great pleasure to spend Book Week 2016 working with students at Glenorchy Primary School. We spent time exploring picture books – old favourites and new – working out how the author had constructed their stories, developed their characters and their settings. The students were then asked to produce their own stories in any medium they chose. And what fantastic stories emerged! Imaginations were unleashed and an incredible array of genres were created. One student produced a deeply moving piece of poetry that I now have hanging in my office. When I told him how special it was he responded that he hadn’t known anyone would want to hear that story.
As lovers of children’s literature, we all share the responsibility of ensuring children are exposed to stories in all their forms: stories that reflect a child’s reality, stories that open whole new worlds to them, stories to inspire, and stories to make them think. But more than that, I also think we owe it to children and the readers of the future to encourage those stories to come out. How many great works of literature have never escaped the mind of their creators because they lacked the confidence to tell their story or thought no one wanted to hear it? I would love to think some of the students we worked with in Book Week have had a little seed planted in their mind and that they may go on to be the next Mem Fox, Marcus Zusak or Emily Rodda.