Every writer has a purpose and I have figured out what mine is. Recently I was asked to create a list of my five favorite children’s books as a child. Easy right? First I thought I could easily just rattle them off. When that failed, I figured I’d give it a little thought and be ready with my list the next day. One week later, I found myself still struggling with compiling what should have been an easy, yet simple list.
After several days of flipping through countless picture books, internet research, and calling my sister, I had to ask myself why this was so difficult. I’m a writer with an English degree who enjoys reading. I taught reading for several years and had numerous children’s books at my disposal. How? Why was this so difficult? Naturally I began to question myself. How can I call myself a children’s writer when I don’t have any favorites of my own to inspire me? It was upon asking myself this question that I began to reflect on the real reasons I write.
As I browsed the book shelves of Barnes & Nobles, book-by-book, I wrote down every book I came across that I remembered enjoying as a child. With each title I recorded however, I noticed I didn’t have a real affinity for the book. I merely remembered it. Nothing more, nothing less. There was no connection to the books I jotted on my list. I liked them, sure. But they weren’t special. In that moment I coined the problem. I didn’t read books that were favorites of mine as a young child. I read what was available to me as a child. This made me reflect on all the books I could remember, and all of them were just what was handed to me or read in class. There weren’t very many I could say, Oh I loved this book. I adored that book. I remember being in this or that place when I read this one. I thought long and hard. Sadly, the two books I remembered actually being favorites were a book my sister helped me recall, Busy Busy Town by Richard Scarry and the other, I couldn’t remember the title. I only remember some of the illustrations. Even though I flipped through that book probably hundreds of times, I only looked at the illustrations because I liked how bright and vivid the colors were.
Well, this got me thinking, how many other kids read what’s there and don’t know the pleasure of choosing a book and deciding for themselves the story they like? I saw this everyday in the classroom and never realized I was one of those very kids myself.
While on my quest to becoming a published writer, I look at the book market and see it as being saturated. The topics are overdone; the stories are all alike; and kids aren’t that interested in reading anymore anyway. The sad truth is, despite the thousands of children’s books crowding local bookstores and slamming the eBook market, there still aren’t enough books for our children. Just as we all have our preferences of how a story should be told, or what would make a story more interesting, so do children. Children need options. They need a plethora of titles to choose from; a plethora of art to be exposed to to see and decide if they enjoy it. They need options to decide if they hate something or love it. And there just aren’t enough options out there for them.
I write for children to have choices; to develop children’s minds; to help them form their own opinions about reading and life; to explore on their own adventures; to nurture their imaginations and allow them to feel what it means to be captivated by a good story. I write so a child can have a favorite book then later create their own. My purpose is to write and keep on writing – not just because I love it or because I’ve always been good at it, but . . . because children need stories they can love.