When it comes to non-textbook material especially for the 'tween and YA groups
(ages nine to fourteen approx),who may not be fluent readers, it seems to me we are caught between two rocks – making these books available in print form or making them available on the Internet.
As far as print goes, I am leaning on one hand to the idea of single stories in small sized books – almost throw away, with stories of high interest dealing with the sort of everyday situations the children experience – the so called hi/low books.
On the other hand 'everybody' is saying that the Internet is the way to go. Graphic novels, interactive material providing constant stimulation (as well as distraction from actual reading and assimilation and appreciation of language).
I am no expert on reading habits. I am merely responding to the frequent lamentations about the low reading skills of too many of our children. I write stories which I would like to get out to the children, but to get them into print would need sponsorship which is rarely forthcoming for publishing books. (There are other writers with this concern also.)
At the moment, the Internet is not the all embracing answer for us in Jamaica and perhaps the Caribbean. There is just not enough access for the majority, so the stories would have to be part of a 'programme' in the schools for them to reach many of the target readers. Just putting them on the Internet as ebooks won't work, Our people don't buy books. Some parents might subscribe (if the school says they should) but not many are going to be willing, or have the equipment to read, or are able to purchase an ebook even if it is going for only 99 cents.
In this new year how can we address this challenge? It is necessary to feed and to provide text books for the children. It is necessary to develop sports, but feeding the mind through the development of the reading habit gets low priority in the mix of helping our children to develop rounded personalities.
The positive influence fiction can provide for children has been well documented. Just look at projects which seek to get information to the children on social issues – drug abuse, AIDs etc. Usually the most important component will be to develop stories for the targeted age groups.
The way fiction works it helps children to develop their imagination not just for fantasy, They can experience different lifestyles, see how others solve problems similar to theirs and widen their experience of life in this 21st century global village we now inhabit.
We should do everything we can to encourage the reluctant readers by getting relevant books – our books - into their hands.
I just finished this story - turned out rather well. I like it..