Monday, January 10, 2011

Stories are like Air for Children ...

... they need them to live and to grow. - Me

Stories are equipment for living. - Kenneth Burke

Fiction gives life its form. - Jean Anouilh

Our appetite for story is a reflection of the profound human need to grasp the patterns of living, not merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience. - Robert McKee

In reading Robert McKee's Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, I found myself nodding and saying "aha!" more than once aloud. Embarrassing, especially as the kids were home on Christmas break. But much of what I had only intuitively grasped about story is delineated so clearly in this wonderful text that it felt, at times, like a revelation.

Just the experience a good storyteller would provide.

If you are a writer - a storyteller - I highly recommend this book. If you're a parent, teacher, or writer, I urge you to think about the stories the children in our care read. Those books aren't just entertainment - they are equipment for living. In a sense, any book a child wants to read is a good book. If a child is starving, you can't be fussy about what food they eat. If a child doesn't read, then any book that feeds their mind will have to do.

But if your child's plate is full, you want them to have the best foods, the kind with nutrients that will help them grow healthy and strong. If your child loves stories, guiding them to the ones that will nourish their minds is a gift of time you won't regret. (And the occasional cupcake is fine too!) Your child's reading deserves careful scrutiny and selection, just like any tools for crafting a life. Because what we read, throughout our lives, does influence us.

One of my resolutions this year is to read more - not least through the 2011 Debut Author Challenge - so hopefully we will have more reviews here at Ink Spells, and more books to help guide parents in finding good reads for those great, little minds.


17 comments:

  1. Looking forward to more reviews. Thanks for sharing your 'aha!' with us. Hee...

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  2. I like the idea of stories as food, a nutrition for the mind, and the heart. It's nice to have a steady diet of them :)

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  3. I love that book. A bit technical but full of wisdom!

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  4. Okay, you've convinced me I'm really gonna have to read that book. But my library system doesn't have it. What's wrong with them?

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  5. I let my kids pick what they want to read since I don't have time to read all their books plus my own. I'm just happy when my 8 yo wants to read. That doesn't happen often. And my 11 yo picks his books from the school library (or my bookshelf) so I have no problems there.

    Wow, there're a lot of writers recommending different screenwriting books lately. I doubt my library has this one. They don't have many screenwriting books at all.

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  6. @Sheri :) There is so much "aha-ing" it made my brain hurt! :)

    @Joanne Agreed! A steady diet of books is a wonderful thing.

    @Laura I was looking for something on the technical side, so it was just right for me. :)

    @Bryan My library doesn't have it either! Which is why it went on the Xmas list. I'd let you borrow mine, but I'm constantly referring to it!

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  7. @Stina I was surprised a screenwriting book was so helpful for a novelist - not at the technical prose level of course, but in the storytelling aspects. McKee makes a great point about how stories exist independent of form, but that each form brings a unique strength to the telling - which means that each has a unique weakness as well. Very compelling read.

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  8. excellent goal! I agree that you need to select what kids read carefully. At least until they're in HS. I remember almost every book I read as a youngster, and I was learning from them all the time. Great post, Susan~ :o)

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  9. @LTM I agree, after a certain age, they should be self-selecting. The age depends on the kid, but HS is a good target (I think). I'm struggling right now with reads for my 12yo.

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  10. Oh, I'm going to order McKee's book right away - sounds terrific! And thanks for mentioning the 2011 Debut Author Challenge!

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  11. I am all over that! Books are nutrition for the mind! We have those kind of conversations here at home all the time-- not that exact language but nonetheless and I agree with you that when a kid is starving you just want to get some food in their stomach! I used to buy Manga for the kids who struggled to read in my school because they were harder to read than they actually knew and they enjoyed reading it! The teachers didn't always like it but the kids loved it! And that is what I wanted to give them!!!

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  12. I love the analogy, Susan, and I agree that when I kid doesn't read, *anything* will do to get him started. I firmly believe that once you start reading, even if it's comic books instead of novels, you are a step on the right track.

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  13. @Darby You'll have to let me know what you think of it! :)

    @Danette It makes me happy to see teachers who understand you need to feed the starving mind first, then feed them the good stuff. It's tough, when we want them to dive into the good stuff first! :)

    @Claudia I also believe in the slippery slope of reading - kids get hooked pretty easy! :)

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  14. hi miss susan! im pretty lucky cause mom read me lots of really good stuff and now i could pick my own ones and for sure those review are a big help for picking them. my most older brother still look to see what im reading but they could know im a really good book picker.
    ...hugs from lenny

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  15. @Lenny I trust you, Lenny, and it sounds like your brother does too! I'm having fun reading more (why do I always forget that?), too! :)

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  16. I agree that what we read is important. I'm a much kindler, gentler person when I'm reading books filled with decent people who try to do the right thing; when all my reading is spent with characters who are whiny, selfish gits, then that colors how I see the world. I think that's true for kids too.

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  17. @Beth Exactly! "coloring your world" is a great way of looking at it! :)

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Erudite comments from thoughtful readers