As a reader, I’m thankful for the versatility of books. They are an escape, an exploration of an unfamiliar world, a way to see myself and my world from a distance, a way to imagine what it’s like to be in another person’s skin.
This fall I read R.J. Palacio’s Wonder to my eleven-year-old son. We don’t always read aloud at bedtime, but I’ve tried to keep up the habit intermittently. (And sometimes I dream of reading aloud with him for years to come: Father-Daughter Reading Streak Lasts Nearly 9 Years.) At many points during the book, especially during parts about the middle school social scene, my fantasy-reading son covered his face and said, “That’s my life! How did someone know what my life is like? It’s so real!” It turns out he’d been feeling alone in his experience.
Wonder did open him to empathy for the main character, Auggie (a boy with a craniofacial deformity who starts middle school after being homeschooled). And it also showed him that others empathize with him. He is not alone in his experience.
As you take time to write in this busy season, know that children will see themselves and their world in your books. And they will see the world from another’s perspective. And they will explore new worlds only accessible with the imagination.
In this season of giving, give your best–your words, your experience of the world, your imagination. Children need it.
Anne-Marie Strohman (co-editor) writes picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult short stories and novels. She is trained as a teacher, an editor, and a scholar, specializing in Renaissance Literature. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is an active member of SCBWI. Find her at amstrohman.com and on Twitter @amstrwriter.