There is a direct correlation between reading and writing; the more you read, the better able you are to express yourself. Writing was always been a passion of mine. As far back as I can remember, I created poems, skits, songs and stories that unleashed the pent-up emotions that rambled within me during my tumultuous developmental years, but these writings were unrefined and rambling. It wasn’t until I was much older that I developed an interest in reading.
I can still remember the first book that ignited my interest, The Catcher In the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. I believe Salinger’s book had such a tremendous impact upon my teenage self because it was a book about a character to whom I could relate. Salinger took me out of the narrow confines of my youth and introduced me to a greater world, a world where kids took the lead and expressed their innermost feelings; basically, what I was trying to do through my writing.
Last fall, I decided to “bite the bullet” and submit for publication one of the many stories I had written over the years. Although the manuscript I submitted was written for my granddaughter, May, years ago at a time when her father had lost his job, I believed that its message was once again timely in light of what many families were experiencing due to the COVID pandemic. My goal was to heighten the awareness of both parents and their children to how children, with their limited understanding of the effects of a recession, can misinterpret the emotional and physical change within their home-life. That is how my book Why Are Mommy and Daddy Sad? came to be.
This past summer, Eloise, our ten-year-old granddaughter demonstrated a reluctance to read. Sure, she was busy with swimming, playing with friends, attending camp, vacationing with her family, but, as busy as all that sounds, she had ample time to include reading as part of her summer plans, however she just didn’t have the desire. Upon witnessing her reluctance and recalling my struggle with reading at a similar age, I wanted to do something to spark her interest. She was extremely proud that her “Yeahyah” had a book published. What better way to get her to read than by telling her I needed her help with my next book?
I had started working on a chapter book for children in her age group while I was still teaching, but like Eloise and her “too busy to read summer” I stopped working on my chapter book due to my “too busy to write” teaching schedule. And like Eloise, I could have managed to find time to write during my free time, but also like Eloise, I had no real motivation to do so. Interesting how children and adults are so similar.
I put my plan in motion. The first thing I needed to do was look through my treasure trove of writings (a plastic bin on the floor of my closet) and remove and resurrect the chapter book I had started those many years ago. Once retrieved, I called Eloise and asked her if she would like a job as my critic and editor by reading the chapters of my book as they progressed and honestly let me know what she thought. I told her not to hold back on her criticism; editors and critics take their jobs seriously. Finally, the piece de resistance; I offered her payment for each chapter read and evaluated. After all, she was being hired by me.
The results of our contract exceeded my wildest expectations. Eloise read every night and I was pressured to keep up my writing and complete my book; a true symbiotic relationship. She actually pointed out spelling errors within the text and helped me rethink some of the paragraphs I had written. My daughter told me that there were nights when she couldn’t put the book down because she was at “a cliff hanger!” Music to my ears.
Children like to know that their opinions are valued and respected. Giving a child the opportunity to offer support and advice, allows them to take the lead in a world normally reserved for adults. Inviting a child to participate in that world by asking for their suggestions is a marvelous way to build a child’s self-confidence. Writing a letter to a fictitious friend, a poem, an article for a newspaper, and then asking a child to help assess your work are just a few ways to let children know that you value their input.
I close by thanking Eloise for taking the time to read and edit my work. Thanks to her desire to read the story to its end, she motivated me to work on a book that probably would have remained unfinished. Now to see if publishers enjoy it as much as my granddaughter did. Regardless of the outcome, the entire experience has been a win-win for both Eloise and me.