Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Art of Reading and Reaching Another Generation

A classroom off the school library comes with perks.

I have to admit, I’m a fan of writers who write well for children. But when they can inspire and impact a child to write, they’ve just imprinted their seal on the next generation—providing good books and good readers for more years to come.

One such author, Jack Gantos, visited our school this past week. And, lucky me, I was able to just open my door and hear him—and the laughter and interest of class after class of would-be authors.

I’d had the privilege of hearing Mr. Gantos a few years ago. This time, whenever I heard our librarian speak of him to a class, I volunteered how they were in for such a treat. So, with teachers, our librarian, and myself prepping the way and sharing the excitement, Mr. Gantos was ushered through waiting crowds of children who’d either caught the excitement or were ripe to see if the hype matched reality.

Everyone left satisfied.

What I found so amazing is that he delivered to the kids a simple plan of genius. When he was done, they were eager to start a journal just like he had done as a child—and let me tell you, if Jack Gantos had been my child, he wouldn’t have had younger siblings. Somewhere there is a chair among the saints for his mother. Something about his stories of breaking his brother’s arm or letting the Pagoda brothers launch him through the air, or the favorite one where he dropped a roach down his sister’s throat while she was sleeping (which led to him being locked out of the house buck naked) grabs the attention of even the most callous sixth grader and makes excellent fodder for his Jack Henry books. Personally I’m just glad he survived his youth and can write about it now.

Mr. Gantos repeated a phrase I’ve heard reiterated over and over by other authors, editors and agents—paraphrased: you must read if you want to write well. He expands this thought on his website where he bravely shares another of his journals. Here’s the link, you'll need to scroll down a bit on the journal page. Check out the entry for 7/31/05 and you'll see what I mean. And I have to agree with him. The writer in me also understands his post of 7/08/05—the excitement of a new book.

For a better understanding of what Mr. Gantos does with kids, check out this link to an article on his school presentations.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading a Jack Gantos book, I recommend you check them out—Rotten Ralph books, the Jack Henry series (highly autobiographical) and the Joey Pigza books. Be prepared to laugh and be transported--two very special blessings.

Abundant blessings!

1 comment:

Robin Caroll said...

That's so awesome. I like hearing how authors inspire kids. Wow, the next generation of writers!