Well, I'm taking slow-blogging to new heights. :)
|Ropes course with the fam on vacation in NH|
One thing that gets on my nerves is when people throw around the idea that because of TV (or the internet) kids have shorter attention spans than they ever had before. You know, when people say it authoritatively in a how-to-write-for-children book, without citing any evidence.
By making that sort of assumption, that children are being damaged by the progress of media, you might as well stuff 'em into a teapot.
It may be true that attention-deficit issues with children are on the rise, but let's face it, that's a chemical process in the brain. I don't think people have found a causal effect between that and TV or computers. And, it has been shown that kids with ADHD can actually "hyper focus" when they find something compelling to focus on.
That's the point, right? Give kids something compelling to focus on.
I do think that it is true that there are different sources of entertainment that can lure our kids away from books, but the takeaway for us writers is that in order to compete with these games, shows and interactive experiences, we need to grab the reader on the first sentence, and hold their interest through the whole book. Which is why writing for young readers is so darn intriguing in the first place. Want a challenge? Try to write a novel for today's youth. They expect the best. It's our job to give it to them.
My kids don't zone out after 12 minutes because they have been trained by the TV and commercials (in fact, the commercials are more compelling to my kids than the show, most times). They don't stop focusing on interesting things after a few moments and drift away. They aren't less inclined to focus. They just have more to chose from.
We need to learn from the experts in the gaming field, like Jane McGonigal, and write in a way that gives kids positive feedback and a real interaction with our books, either figuratively, if we are writing traditional stories, or literally, like Patrick Carman. (The video clips of Skeleton Creek scared the bejeesus out of my eldest. Because he didn't listen to his mother. I'm just saying.)
But let's not assume that our kids are becoming less because they have more to interest them. Let's give them the more (which I believe today's authors, in general, are accomplishing).
Take my nine-year-old son, for instance.
|Give me s'more!|
Some might say that he doesn't have the attention span for reading, because he tends not to choose books at his reading level. He sees a full page of text and turns away. But it's not attention span that is his problem--(I don't happen to think he has a problem, thank you very much, teapot stuffers)--but that he is an auditory/sensory learner, and not a visual learner. So most age-appropriate books are, by definition, not his cup of tea. But give him an Alvin Ho book, and he won't put it down. For him, humor is the carrot that will pull him through an entire book.
As a writer, you don't necessarily have to hook my son. (Although the fist fight that ensued in the back seat of my car when I tossed Anna's ARC of My Sort-of Fairy Tale Ending to my kids shows that she has. I'm talking FIST FIGHT where I had to pull the car over and physically separate the kids. Thanks, Anna. #MyBoysReadGirlBooks #TheyArePassionateAboutBooks #MyDaughterWonTheFight)
But you do have to know what type of kid you are hooking, and then hook them the whole way through. Don't let 'em off the line.
And, as if I haven't mixed enough metaphors in this post, I'm encouraging you to make your own path, when it comes to writing books, and not write under the fear that children don't have the attention span to pick up a book and read anymore. You make the path!
And, now for our regularly scheduled commercial: If anyone wants help with the path, we have an All Things Picture Book group meeting at the Writers' Loft in Sherborn on Thursday night this week, and a Craft Chat on Character on July 23rd, also in the evening. Here's the link. Join us!