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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: Authors, Children's Books, Guardians of Childhood, Sandy Hook, Sandy Hook Elementary, Sandy Hook Shooting