So, in a way, you are conducting research for your characters?
Someone once asked me about the way kids were taught to write in schools—prewriting, etc.—and at first I thought I don’t do any of that, but then I realized that I do , in the third section, it was based on a restaurant my kids loved when they were little that I hadn’t been to in years, so I went one day by myself for lunch, with my notebook. But when I hear the word research, I think of it differently.
I had a large collection of children’s books, and when I became a parent I was, I think, at the very beginning very stingy with my books because they were in perfect condition, and I knew what happened to the books my kids “read.” But the same person inside me knew that that’s what books are for. I went through a phrase where I really loved Garth Williams illustrations, so the head children’s librarian at the Racine [WI] public library would show me books that he had illustrated. And I remember the Henry Reed books—they aren’t very much around now, but I remember loving those. You know I read aloud when they were a big younger, and that was a big hit.
And I think it has been wonderful to watch my kids grow up with books. How did you choose which books to read aloud to your kids? How do you create your characters’ unique voices and personalities?
Libraries and librarians meet this challenge in a number of ways, both traditionally and by using Web 2.0 technologies.
Aside from the typical teen book club, summer reading contests, teen library advisory boards, game nights, booktalks, and contests, librarians promote reading with library webpages; video book re Usingviews or book trailers; online book clubs or literature circles; Second Life and other 3D social worlds; blogs; book sharing sites such as Shelfari, Goodreads, or Library Thing; RSS feeds and Tweeting; and, of course, social networking sites such as Facebook and My Space.
I’m sure I’ve made many mistakes as a parent but every day, [reading aloud to them] was one thing that I think was so right, and it exposed them to a lot. Some were things that I wanted to read, that I remembered loving and I wanted to share it with them. I think about my characters long before I begin writing, and I really try to get a very clear picture in my mind who they are—how old they are, what they like. And then when I feel pretty confident about them, I will jot things down, not writing the story yet but really just writing down facts about the character so by the time that I do begin writing, I’m pretty certain who they are. I often will have a notebook and I’ll make little tabs for the characters and write down my facts about the different characters in their section, and add to it and refer to it. It’s not in the book per se, but it’s still helps me know who they are.
They also read independently, but sometimes they would have something that they would want me to read aloud as well, and they would decide what they wanted. And if I begin too soon for me, I’ll quickly find it out. Sometimes I will write down what a character’s favorite color is or favorite food, and it won’t end up being in the book, but it helped me create him or her.
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Even teens who say they are non-readers or do not like to read spend a great deal of each day actually reading.
A role of the librarian thus becomes finding ways of connecting young adults and literature with the technology they immerse themselves in during their daily lives.
Under the National Geographic brand, you will assume this is a "safe" game, with parental controls, but that is not the issue. My daughter's account was hacked into by another player who lied to my daughter (she thought he was a moderator) and all her things were "stolen." Animal Jam had the nerve to send an automated response to my email complaints. The past week, however, we noticed that she was being exposed to a great deal of foul language and sexual activity on this kid-friendly site.
The problem is with addiction, and that the educational aspects of this are virtually nil, considering it is optional for the children to click on the educational facts, otherwise the main thing they will learn is materialism, as they strive to acquire possessions for their avatar. I left two messages on their phone line (which is never staffed apparently) and never got a call back. How can that be when the site has chat filters and constant moderation?