Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? and/or do Imaginative writing?
My sons are both in elementary school (1st and 4th grades), and they are encouraged to read a lot outside of school, as homework. However, there is so much emphasis on achievement tests these days that a lot of the creative activities that went along with reading when I was a kid (and made school fun for me) don’t happen anymore. It’s not the teachers’ fault. They have such a tough job these days with huge class sizes, low budgets, and overemphasis on tests. And there are great teachers out there that find ways to incorporate fun, creative activities into the standard curriculum. Both of my kids have great teachers this year, and they are both doing some imaginative writing and other creative activities. To be honest, I think the problem lies more in the home than in the schools. Parents need to take responsibility for limiting the time kids spend on television and computer game. Give your kids opportunities to be creative through imaginative play, unstructured time outside, and time for free reading.
Did you read a lot at school and write lots of stories or is being a writer something newer in your life?
I loved to read as a kid, but looking back it seems like I did most of my reading in my free time, not at school. I grew up without a television, and I think that encouraged me to read. I always loved books—everything about them—the way they felt, the way they smelled, the way they looked all together on the shelves, and of course the fantastic adventures they could take you on. My parents read to me a lot also. I can still clearly remember how it felt to sit beside my parents in the evening and drift off into some great story, orange lamplight glowing in our living room, the warmth of a fire warming our home. I also had a couple of really good teachers that put a lot of effort into novel units—fun, creative projects that went along with the books we read and encouraged us to think more deeply about the treasures each story held.
I didn’t write as often as I read when I was young. But I always enjoyed writing. I always wanted to be a writer… someday… off in the future when I was better at it. I still feel that way sometimes!
If you had asked me that question when I was a kid I would have given you two names without hesitation: J.R.R. Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander. But now, as I reflect back on the many books I read in those years, it’s hard for me to be so decisive. So many great stories have stayed tucked in some cherished part of my memory—books by Roald Dahl,
Arnold Lobel, C.S. Lewis, Katherine Paterson, Judy Blume, Harper Lee, Mark Twain, Dr. Seuss and so many others.
Do you have a treasured book from your childhood? If yes, what is it?
One book that has really stuck with me over the years is Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. I actually still have a tattered paperback copy that is signed by the author, and I’ve now read it to each of my sons. It is a beautiful story. I love it.
Did you have a favourite genre of book as a child? ie fictional, non-fiction, history, educational, adventure, romance, animals, pets, etc etc
I really loved fantasy books as a kid, especially The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander and The Trilogy of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. But I’m glad that my teachers and parents helped me branch out into other genres also. I think it is sad now when I hear people say things like, “boys won’t read books with girl main characters.” I hope that’s not true (and I think The Hunger Games might have thrown a wrench in their theory). I read some wonderful books with female protagonists when I was a boy, and I think it is great for kids to gain a better understanding for the diversity of human experiences by reading a wide variety of books. We cannot go everywhere, see everything and be everyone—but we can read about so many wondrous things and learn to appreciate and better understand them.