Is it me, or has our teaching of reading become overly analytical? As I’m writing this, I’m noticing the word ‘anal’ in the word analytical and I’m thinking, yup, that must be where it comes from… Here’s what I mean. I’m a writer. Aside from this blog, I write for kids. When I write, I’m trying to tell a good story. I’m hoping to create believable characters. I want to make you laugh or cry or get goosebumps. I want you to remember my characters long after you’ve closed the book and to wonder how they are or what they might be up to now. I want to move you with my words.
It’s kinda funny (and a little pointless) to me when teachers take my books apart and ask kids to interpret them with a “conventional” meaning and a “subversive” meaning. (I didn’t even know there was such a thing, did you?) Most writers that I know aren’t thinking about how to impart theme or heavy wisdom to kids, especially kids in elementary school. Sure, if you learn a lesson, that’s great. But I’d rather have you fall in love with the people I write about. I’d be thrilled if you journeyed to another world with me, if only for an afternoon. I’d be really happy if you found yourself on the pages of one of my books and learned a little more about who you are.
Truthfully? It doesn’t matter to me one bit if you understand exactly why my character said that thing to her friend as he lay in his hospital bed. It only matters that you heard and felt the sorrow in her voice. It doesn’t matter if you get every single joke, cause guess what, teachers? Some of those are written for the grown-ups reading the story. So don’t bother taking those apart, and asking kids to provide evidence for why they are (or aren’t) funny. I don’t write so that kids will respond in a notebook, or get points for answering comprehension questions when they finish.
I write to entertain. I write to touch your heart. I write hoping you’ll create your own meaning from my words, and maybe even write your own stories. For me, that’s meaning enough.