Thursday, 10 February 2011

Writing for children

is not "easier than writing for adults". Writing well for children is much, much more difficult. There is a discussion going on over on "An Awfully Big Blog Adventure" (Martin Amis: A response from a children's author - Lucy Coats). It makes good reading, very good reading.
(There were many things that bothered me about the Amis piece, especially the comment by Amis "If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children's book." There is so much wrong with that statement. It is highly insulting to any number of people, including myself. Why did the BBC actually let that comment go through? I hope someone on BBC Ouch! picks it up and does something about it. I feel tempted to write to the man myself but he might think I am writing him a fan letter.)
My father is a retired school principal. He has always believed that the younger the child the more skilled the teaching needs to be. He has always said that the best and most skilled teachers need to be available in the earliest years of schooling. It has always puzzled him that these teachers have often been paid the least.
He holds exactly the same opinion about writing. He read English at university and, if anything, it sharpened his love of children's literature. Even now he will read the occasional children's book because, at 88, "there is still much to be learnt from any good literature".
That may well be why my father is still so open minded and tolerant about so many things. He likes new ideas. He will "chew them over". He spits some out. He swallows others.
I know adults who have not read a book since they left school and were no longer compelled to read anything. I know others who do read but would never dream of reading a children's book. I know still others who would only consider reading a picture book to a child.
There are very few adults I know, even teachers, who actually read children's fiction. The very suggestion that they should is met with puzzlement. Why would an adult want to read something written for a child?
The idea that there might be outstandingly good writing in a book for children and that the writing should be relished for its own sake is something with which they cannot come to terms. All too often their ideas about children's books come from what is popular rather than what is well written. The winner of the Carnegie Medal is not likely to catch their eye, nor are many other well written books. They will not even see a review in a newspaper - and how many adults actually read the book reviews? By no means everyone reads those.
Perhaps what is needed is much better marketing. Perhaps we all need to take the business of writing for children and reading what is written for children a great deal more seriously than we do. Adults might actually learn something.


Sheep Rustler said...

If Martin Amis had a brain injury he might well write something worthwhile, especially if it produced a complete personality change - the cheek of the man!!!!! I imagine it would be far harder to write well for children than to write well for adults. I personally do not think he writes well at all. And what an offensive remark to make!

Melinda Szymanik said...

I actually find it hard to understand why people want to read only fiction for adults.

Writers for children are often more generous in their comments about writing for any age, the same cannot be said for writers for adults.

Anonymous said...

My favourite author for enjoyment also writes books for children ... I read all of them too! More and more of my light reading is by authors who write for both big and little kids, and books written for younger readers.

I think I am reading less adult literature because the writes take themselves and their work too seriously ... and their work is no longer entertaining because of it.

Or perhaps i am just going into my second childhood!

Judy B

Anonymous said...

Martin Amis was not only way out of line but has clearly never met anyone like you. Chris