“…all these books that were for me…”

If you write for young people, consider this LJ post a big, fat thank you note (virtual chocolates and ice cream, too). I just finished reading my 7th graders’ final exams. I ask them to write an essay reflecting on how they’ve grown as readers, writers, and human beings this year. Here’s a quote from K…

“In the beginning of the year, I didn’t like to read at all. But then my teacher showed me all these books that were for me, and I couldn’t stop reading.”

Books that were for her.  Written just for her.  Or at least it felt that way.  She went on to talk about Sonya Sones, Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Nancy Werlin — voices that spoke to her over the past ten months. 

And K wasn’t the only one who named names as she reflected on books that made a difference this year.  My kids talked about finding themselves in the characters of Pete Hautman, Janet Tashjian, Jack Gantos, Laurie Halse Anderson, Lisa Yee, Sharon Creech, Jerry Spinelli, Wendelin Van Draanen, David Lubar, Cynthia Kadohata, Mal Peet, and Walter Dean Myers.  They wrote about being challenged by M.T. Anderson, Richard Preston, and Markus Zusak.  They wrote fondly about escaping into the worlds of Margaret Peterson Haddix, Christopher Paolini, and JK Rowling.  And they reflected on walking a mile in someone else’s shoes as they read Gene Luen Yang, Cynthia Lord, Will Hobbs, Jennifer Roy, and Joseph Bruchac.

I write for kids.  I know that some days, it feels like you’re alone with your computer, and even your computer doesn’t  like you very much. So I thought I’d share K’s reflection on her year of reading.  We all need to realize when we write, we’re writing for someone important.  Someone like K, who’s waiting for a book that’s just for her, just for him.  

If you write for kids, that’s the work you’re doing every day.  You may never get to read the end-of-the-year essays, but you should know that you make a difference, and you’re appreciated.

23 Replies on ““…all these books that were for me…”

  1. That’s actually one of the things I’ve most looked forward to when thinking about being an author. I’ve heard from a handful of kids so far, and it really is special. Thanks for the teacher-insight!

    And now look at all those authors I’ve got to look up…

  2. Thank you for reminding me how reading is personal for kids. It is as though you are writing for that one reader, and there’s a connection being forged. I love it when the kids write back!

    Jennifer J.

  3. Sorry you have to look them up – I was going to link them but ran out of time!
    Got your email on the historical fiction workshop. I’ll look for your book!

  4. Your post beautifully reminds me not only why I write, but why I teach. Thank you. It’s a wonderful thing to touch the mind of a teen.

  5. If you see them next fall, please tell them thanks from me, too. They are why I climb the steps to my office every morning after breakfast. It is a tremendous joy to get this kind of fedback!

    ::beaming::

  6. I will tell them today when they come in for their math test.

    SPEAK was mentioned in five or six of their essays, including one from a young man who’s a reluctant reader and said he stayed up until 11:30 to finish it.

    Thanks for your comment, Laurie!

  7. A wonderful tribute to the writers who create worlds for young readers and the teachers who help build the bridges to get to those worlds!

    A love of reading is the best gift you can give a kid. It sounds like you have given many gifts this school year and will continue to do so through your writing as well. Kate, you should pat yourself on the back too! Thanks for sharing the essays!

  8. Thanks, Linda! You deserve a cheer, too, for the work you do with early literacy year after year.

    Can’t wait to see you guys next month!

  9. Kudos go to you, Kate

    For playing book match-maker when and where it really counts. You are an inspiration.

    Nancy Werlin

  10. Thanks, Carrie. I just finished reading TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (EX) BOYFRIEND and have decided that I want to write like you when I grow up. What an incredible, important, touching, true book. I loved it. Plus, I’ve always loved duct tape.

  11. Wonderful and inspiring

    As someone who also found herself (not to mention lost herself willingly) in books as a teen, I love when I get letters and e-mails from kids saying that they identified with something I wrote. Like you said, it’s what keeps us going through those lonely, frustrating days in front of a blank word document.

    Thanks for posting!!

  12. For Me

    K is so right–that’s exactly how it felt–still feels, sometimes, when the book is just right. When I was a girl, Phyllis Whitney wrote for me. Sometimes, as I work on my mystery, I feel I’m writing for…or back TO her, and hopefully for some kids out there, too!