I, like countless other people across America and the world over, am heartbroken for the children and school officials who lost their lives in Newtown, CT yesterday. My own son is 6 years old and in first grade. The same age as the 20 children who died at the hands of a mentally disturbed young man who brought guns into their school. I’m faced with the chilling knowledge that the only thing that separates my children from those who perished yesterday is that the disturbed person with the guns chose a different school, a different town. It’s enough to make a mother go mad with rage and worry and anguish.

One of the most common phrases I’ve seen the wake of yesterday’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut is, “there are no words.” A very understandable sentiment, but one with which I must agree to disagree.

Do you know what one of the brave teachers in Newtown, CT did to comfort her class while gunshots rang across the school? She read them stories.

There are words and, now more than ever, we need to use them.

Last weekend, I took my kids to see the movie, Rise of Guardians, which was spectacular and a part of the Guardians of Childhood series as imagined by author/illustrator William Joyce. As I reflected on yesterday’s events, the movie (and the books) came to mind and I had an epiphany. Children’s writers everywhere, hear this: We are the guardians of childhood. I hope Mr. Joyce won’t take issue with me saying this, since he himself is a Guardian of the highest order.

We who write for children are the ones who, with our words and our stories, provide children with hope, happiness, and empathy. When children face fear and hardship with us, it is cushioned by the covers of our books. We show children the world as beautiful and forgiving and glorious, even as it is sometimes cruel and treacherous. Each time a child sees him or herself in the pages of one of our books, we’ve touched the universal human spirit that lives inside of that child, and in all of us.

As Guardians, we do not undermine children’s intelligence or their comprehension of the shortcomings of this world. Rather, we show them they are not alone, and that no matter how isolated they may feel, there are always others who understand. We give them reasons to believe in the wonder and beauty of the world, and that the force of love is always greater than the force of evil (which I still hold true).

As a Guardian of my own children and to all children, this is my pledge.

  1. Children have the right to remain innocent, and that innocence should not be stripped from them prematurely, but rather as a natural function of growing up and becoming adults.
  2. Stories have the power to entertain, teach, challenge, and inform children. Most of all, they should enable them to feel empathy toward and connection to others. In so doing, they will see that they are not alone in this world and that they have an important contribution to make.
  3. We will never ban or restrict children’s access to books in a feeble attempt to shield them from world views or events that we cannot protect them from in real life.
  4. Our stories will give children refuge when they feel isolated, a safe haven when they need escape, and hope when they might otherwise feel it is lost. Just as critically, our stories will make them laugh, smile and revel in happiness.
  5. While we recognize that terrible things can and do happen, we Guardians believe in the overall goodness of the world, and especially of children. The world is good. People are good. Children are good.
  6. The most important part of our job is to keep the spark of hope and love alive in children’s hearts. We stoke the fire with our stories, our words, and our belief in them. We will not let our words fail children in their time of greatest need.

I dedicate this post to the families of those lost in the CT tragedy. I vow to do my part to bring as much good into the world as I can, especially with the stories I write for those whose hearts are the purest among us.

Categories: Children's Books, Writing · Tags: , , , , ,

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51 Comments

  1. Well said, Julie. Lovely post! Worth sharing.

  2. Julie, I have prayed for the families, teachers, school and town since I heard about this evil yesterday. You’re right. I second what Romelle said. Very much worth sharing. (((hugs)))

  3. Beautifully said, Julie!

    Donna L Martin

  4. Thank you, Julie. Heartfelt and well-said. The experience of empathy is one of the greatest gifts of Story. And Story is how we try to make sense of the world. Thanks for being a guardian…

  5. Julie, this was so beautifully and eloquently stated. You are so right. Thank you.

    Sharing.

  6. A beautiful post, Julie!

  7. what a lovely post and inspiring post!

  8. Oh my! my hand was on my heart as I read this post, so beautifully written and from the heart. I am with you 110% Julie!

  9. Beautiful thoughts, Julie. Beautiful words. We are the guardians.

  10. Beautiful, Julie. Thank you.

  11. I love this post. Stories matter. You said it perfectly.

  12. Thank you Julie. Prayerfully, we who work with children will find the right words tomorrow.

  13. Thank, you, Julie for these strong valid words!

  14. Beautiful, Julie. I couldn’t agree more, and I’ll take the pledge right alongside you… xo

  15. exactly the words that are needed at this time, Julie.

  16. Well said. This is a great post. It has been a very bad week. My parents tell me that 99.9% of people are good but one bad person can hurt so many. I think most people are good.

    • Your parents are right Erik, and it’s all the more important to remember that when bad things happen to very good people. But most people are good and doing their very best to make the world a better place.

  17. Said very well, Julie. I take the pledge right along with you.

  18. I feel your passion, Julie. I’ve been struggling to understand my emotion behind this tragedy. Yes, it is natural to grieve such a senseless loss of pure innocence and joy, and to empathize and sympathize for the family and community of the victims. It is natural to relate because I have a precious seven-year-old granddaughter. Maybe it is even natural to feel the fear from the child within myself that once laughed and played, feeling safe at school. But there was something deeper, that I couldn’t understand. I knew it was connected to being a children’s writer. I suspected that it was because when I write I get lost in a world of children where children are my world. It is such a strong connection. I liken it a bit to Jesus, or given the time of year, Santa Claus; we all three love the little children of the world. Your post made me understand that thing I was feeling down deep – I am a guardian of childhood. I take this pledge with you, Julie. Thank you.

    • Alayne, I think you are so right to remember that we all still carry our childhood selves inside of us. Now we need to pour that into writing for today’s children. I am glad this post helped you make a connection to your gift.

  19. I am moved beyond words by your post Julie. So eloguently stated — we are the guarians of childhood and I join you in your pledge. I grieve with others,,but always find myself moving to the place of the observer. I watch the healing grace that wraps itself tightly around such situations. I see the love and beauty of community and a nation praying together. People everywhere will respond in their own unique way and add to their lights to brighten the future.

  20. I enjoy all your posts but this one was particularly touching. Thanks for writing these blogs.

    Nan Nan Kennedy

  21. Beautiful and inspiring. I’ll be reading this over and over again.

  22. Beautifully and perfectly articulated, Julie. Thank you.

  23. So well said, Julie. I had tears in my eyes as I read this, particularly when I read this line, “children’s writers everywhere, hear this: We are the guardians of childhood.”

  24. I love this post. Thank you, Julie, for putting into words the role we as story makers play.

  25. Thank you, Julie, for finding the words that have eluded so many others in the wake of the terrible tragedy. You have given me a reason to write today.

    • Sylvia and Patricia, I’m glad these words inspire you to keep on writing. That is what we must do in order to move beyond this tragedy. Thank you for your comments.

  26. Yes, Julie, thank you. There is something we can do–and though it’s hard to think of writing funny stories, I think we must.

  27. Through goose bumps and tears I read your post. Thank you Julie. Most inspiring to know our children’s stories help in this way. Diane L Wood.

  28. Julie…may I take up your pledge also? The impassioned words in this post need to be emblazoned on our hearts…and minds…as we write for children.:) Thank you!!!

  29. Wow. That’s it…just WOW

  30. I read your post after the presidents speech tonight in Newtown. He too talked about all of us being in a way “guardians” of children. Your post was beautiful.

  31. Julie, this is a powerful post. I think the thing that makes me most sad, is that while we focus so much attention on this particular incident, children die of violence every day in inner cities, starvation in countries around the world and wars declared and undeclared. The loss of any life is tragic. But incidents like this one do make me feel blessed that random acts of violence are the only thing I have to fear. I don’t have to worry about my children dying of starvation or malaria or war on a daily basis.

  32. Kathleen Cornell Berman

    Beautiful Julie. We are the guardians of children in such a special way. Childhood is a fraction of a person’s life and it plays such a crucial part in one’s development. I am proud to take the pledge with you.

  33. I like your approach because its more realistic. We don’t deny the pain of the world but we bring goodness to it. I also like the encouragement to keep hope and love alive in our children’s lives. David the psalmist had good insight to a healthy response to evil when he wrote Psalm 37:1-3. He advises us not to fret because of evil doers but to instead trust in the Lord and do good. The response to evil is to do good. When we choose this response, we can overcome evil because good overcomes evil. Great insight Julie. Thanks for sharing this.

  34. As a teacher, writer, and mom, this resonates so much with me. Thank you for eloquently inspiring me today.

  35. Great post and a refreshing reaction to the tragedy. Keep up the important work of writing for and reading to kids. Now more than ever, they need an escape.

  36. Thank you Julie for touching our hearts and encouraging our purpose.

  37. Lovely pledge. We need more strong guardians of childhood like you.

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