Making pictures in their heads

This morning, I was privileged to be allowed to speak to Year 10 at Steyning Grammar School. It being ‘World Book Day’, SGS, who are staunch advocates of reading, invited four authors to come and speak. My lot was to use a ten minute slot in the morning assembly to convey my enthusiasm for reading, writing and the subject matter of my first novel, ‘New Fire’.

Ten minutes is a very short time, a very, very short time to explain the joy that reading brings and so the key theme of my presentation was ‘telepathy’, or as I summed it up, ‘putting pictures in your heads’.

Sure, special effects are astonishing in film nowadays. Dinosaurs walk the earth and wizards battle under showers of coruscating sparks, believably. The thing is, that all happens on the screen in front of you. When you read a book, it all happens in your head. Blah, blah, blah, I can sense you skimming over this. Erp…stop…rewind. It happens in your head. Let’s review that. You pull the words off the page and your brain builds a world with a smoking volcano with incandescent lava flows and pyroclastic flows. Ash rains from a darkling sky. From out of the roiling clouds a gargantuan horned dragon swoops towards the tattered villagers…

You get the picture? Well you should do because you built it. The author made the blueprint but you built it. That is telepathy…or damn close to it.

Children are great. Until they reach late teens, they exude potential and infinite possibilities. I only hope that my talk didn’t close off some of those horizons. It seemed to go down well and I’ve been invited back to help with a writing workshop in the summer term.

2 thoughts on “Making pictures in their heads

  1. Did you notice any differences between the reactions of the girls and the boys to your subject matter? I’m half convinced that, for boys at least, part of the problem with getting them enthusiastic about reading is the restricted range of genres they’re exposed to at primary school. In my limited experience (sample size : 2) boys want to read about fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, and by the time they’ve got through those they can cope with the true love and miracles.

    • Hi Dave, to be honest, it was my first presentation and I wasn’t relaxed enough or well rehearsed enough to be looking around. That said, I reckon you’re right. The progression of books that each child reads should probably be very carefully tailored to their interests. Even one story that’s slightly off the mark could reduce the child’s appetite to come back for more, especially when there’s so much competition from other media, most of which require so little investment in time and effort.

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