I have been reading since I was four, and my mother’s task was actually to keep me from reading all the time, so a few years ago when I found myself presented with the opportunity to become a children’s librarian, and a few months later, to write a novel for young adults, I dove in with both feet, feeling that every child should love reading the way I do.
As a librarian in a library too small to need a full-time children’s librarian, I spent a few hours a week book shopping, planning programs, and just plain talking to kids about books. Because I was familiar with the books in our collection, what was popular, and books that I knew where to find them through inter-library loans, I was often able to steer reluctant readers toward books that would tickle their fancy. I wound up writing a story that bloomed into a novel because of this desire to help kids find books like the one they just read.
My eldest daughter, who was 11 at the time, had read a book she adored. There was a series by the same author, and she read all that were out at the time, and insisted that I read the first of them, because she wanted to share her pleasure in them (which is a great way to get your kids involved with you in reading - read some of their books, and discuss. Or read aloud to one another). I read it, realized that there were very few books in the library or my home collection, or indeed, in modern releases, that featured mythology, and decided I would write her a story.
When she went off to a long summer camp, gone for three weeks, I wrote a story about a girl who loved kittens, and who was a mythological gods’ descendant, just like in the book she had wanted me to read. And just like she is - she loves cats, and some other things I wrote into the story. She came home from camp, told me it was a great story, and summer passed. In the fall, she came home from school one day, brandishing a piece of paper. She wanted me to take part in NaNoWriMo, and make the story into a novel, especially since now her two younger sisters were ‘into’ that same series and would want to read more of my stories.
I did win NaNo and finished the novel for them, but that was just the beginning. They still read avidly, as they always have, but they also are interested in writing now, and my eldest participated in NaNo herself at the youth writer level last fall. I believe she will again this year as well. Her sisters tell me their ideas for my stories all the time, most of which come from the books they are reading.
With my children, as with the kids who came into the library, I usually just had to worry about supplying them with titles that they would enjoy reading. With the other children in town who I saw less often, I relied on the Summer Reading Program to bring them in, and I would have books on hand to get them interested. Kids like the shiny, the new, the same old subjects, so it can be a challenge to keep older books going out when they look a bit shabby, and to justify buying yet another book on dinosaurs, because that is what all boys of a certain age love.
Once I had the novel completed and was telling my patrons at the library about it, I discovered that the hook worked not only for my kids, but the library kids. They were thrilled to know a ‘real author’ and often told me all about what they were writing, while asking me about how to write. This led to me recommending books and websites to them for research as well. It was a self-feeding interest that I believe even authors of MG/YA books can help out with, by being willing to volunteer at their local library and talk to kids about writing and reading. Maybe even to take the time to start a junior writer’s club and foster interest and skills that way.
Cedar Sanderson's blog is: www.cedarwrites.com
You can find "Vulcan’s Kittens", the YA novel Cedar wrote for her daughters, and excerpts from it, here: http://cedarwrites.com/vulcans-kittens/