It was half-term last week so the local Pound shop was very popular with our three grand-children. One child is absolutely mad about stories, both reading them and writing them. She’s pushing the boundaries of what she can read at the moment and we often see her hunched over some book far too difficult for her but painstakingly picking out the words she can understand. She would be so thrilled and overjoyed by a visit from a children’s writer in their school but I have only known one such writer go in over the last couple of years.
Sometimes, the value of writers going into schools is questioned but if those questioners could talk to the children, they would soon understand how much excitement is generated by a writer going in, how important and special it makes the children feel and how all the children, but especially those who love stories, are inspired by their visits. And also how their story-telling improves because there, in front of them, is a person who can and does help them with their work. So, stories are important then and THEIR story is important because this is what a visit from a children’s writer says to them. Stories are important so keep writing.
The visit to the Pound shop was brilliant this time because she found a book made especially for story telling. The top half of the page is blank for illustrations and the bottom half lined for the story to be written on.
Any writer who has been into a school, if they are allowed proper time to talk and work with the children, will know just how much encouragement their visit gives. It seems as if the golden days of school visits are over but they shouldn’t be. When writers speak of their favourite books and stories when they were children, we know that each one of those books and stories planted a little seed of desire to write ourselves. Everyone gains from children having contact with writers. The children, the community and yes, even the country because children grow up and the work they then do adds immeasurably to the creative and cultural life of their country.
I could go on but instead I’ll tell a couple of stories.
Some years ago, I went into a Young Adults Detention Centre and when the young men came in, one of them had two guards with him and a great pile of Enid Blyton books. He carefully set the books out on the table in front of him and at the end of the session, he and I had a long and invigorating talk about Enid Blyton and her stories. He said this was the first time he’d been able to get hold of all her books and read them and he was so pleased by that, but he was even more pleased to be able to talk about them. I don’t know what he’d done or even what he would go on to do but for the space of about 30 minutes, he was able to step out of the life he was in and enter the world of these much loved books.
The other story concerns a hare that had been run over on the road outside our house and I was really upset by this, so I read again Dennis Hamley’s beautiful book HARE’S CHOICE to comfort myself. It’s actually about a hare that is killed and whose body is found by two children who take it to school, where the teacher uses it as a starting point for a story. It is a story that stays with you because we are allowed into the hare’s consciousness and it was THIS story I needed when I saw the dead hare - a children’s story, alive with compassion, understanding and beautiful images and, that day, nothing else would have done.
The book’s gone now, borrowed by a child. I might get it back but, somehow, I doubt it.