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Friday, April 8, 2011


Children’s author, Bruce Coville stood at our SCBWI writing conference Saturday and boldly stated, that “children’s writers are people trying to make a living by telling lies to little children.”

That got our attention.

By definition, fictional stories are made up. Technically, they are lies. They are lies told to inspire, entertain or educate. As Mr. Coville pointed out, children may not always obey what adults say, but they will listen to stories because stories are “one heart touching another.”

I agree. We enter the world with no experience upon which to rely. One way children gain empathy for other people, understand new situations and learn a bit about the world around them is through stories.  Situations, seen through the eyes of characters, help mold the personality, morality, and wisdom of the reader. Even the simplest picture book story can teach a child, inspire her and educate her about a part of this big, scary world. And make her feel not quite so small and powerless.

One of my favorite childhood books was The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Its story of loneliness, courage, and friendship is eternal. And it spoke to my heart.

Our family moved every year or two. As a result, loneliness was something I knew well. I was always the new kid; always looking for a friend from within the established groups of BFFs. Burnett made me feel that my loneliness was normal. It was painful, but it was okay to feel it because it was real. The fact that other children felt the same pain, made me somehow feel not so alone. Her book also showed me a glimpse into the joy that friendship could be. It gave me courage to seek friendship one more time, whenever we resettled, and for however long we remained.

The book enlarged my tender heart.

As writers, parents, teachers, grandparents and other stewards of the children God has placed in our lives, we can help nurture them by sharing with them our love of books. Books that will enlarge their hearts and place within them the seeds of faith and hope.  

We can write the best books for children we are able. We can read to children the books we loved. We can love the new books they love and seek to understand why they love them.

In other words, we can tell beautiful lies to our children. And hopefully—in so doing—we can enhance their lives.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of story. We love the way Jesus used stories to teach us truths that are hard to understand. We are your children, no matter our age. Those stories still speak to our hearts. Help us use story to teach the children in our lives. Show us how we can enlarge their hearts for you to fill. Amen.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What was your favorite book as a child? What did it mean to you? What is the favorite book of your child or grandchild? Why do you think it’s important to him?


Sheila said...

Carol, I don't have favorite books, movies, foods, etc. I always have several vying for top spot. I loved Secret Garden also. My father was in the army and we moved a lot. I attended 8 different schools in 8 different locations. So, I understand how you felt. A few favorite books from childhood were: The Yearling, The Black Stallion series, Anne of Green Gables series, and Little House series. Those are the first that came to mind. (Also I taught middle-school science, math, and English for nineteen years. Looks like we have some things in common! :)

Carol Peterson said...

@Sheila. Books can also be friends, can't they? While we're waiting for real friendships to develop.