This morning, as I was doing my daily reading online, I came across a post on The Guardian about Children's Theatre, written by Lyn Gardner. She is quoting her own speech about the lack of press and respect given to children's literature and theatres. She says that some people will ask her when she plans to write a "grown-up" book or play. She says that the UK is one of the leading countries for pushing the arts out of public education and over-emphasizing test scores, particularly in maths and technology. The US must be a close second.
Many of you readers are also writers for children: picture books, middle grade, young adult, and children's theatre. You know the importance of writing for the younger audience. You also know how scary it is, because they'll see through your false voices. They won't put up with your preaching. You'd better be a good storyteller, tell it with truth, and give them real characters with real problems that they can relate to. From historical fiction to sci-fi, kids want stories that captivate their imaginations and characters they can root for.
As I said in my recent review of The Wong Kids at The Children's Theatre in Minneapolis, teenage boys are a tough audience. They won't spare your feelings. They have many distractions and sharp minds. And, girls have such diverse interests, you can't even label what they'll pick up or be drawn to. I'm a piano teacher, and I often have siblings waiting for each other. Whenever they have a book along, I ask, "What are you reading?" They've brought in everything from "The Princess Diaries" to "The Graveyard Book," and everything in between. I've gotten some great recommendations from them!
As public schools are pushing out the arts, they're losing out on the love of learning. They are further institutionalizing education and squelching creativity. Kids, and adults, need space to set their imaginations on fire. The arts give us a chance to feel valued, to create and connect. In a recent article that I did for our school district magazine, I interviewed the high school band, orchestra, and choir instructors. They are an amazing group of teachers. They influence the lives of hundreds of kids every day. They give them something to look forward to from rehearsals that don't feel like desk work to band trips across the country. They are part of a group that works in cooperation, not competition. To read the article, go to The Brainerd Dispatch and look for We Are 181 magazine, Fall 2013 edition (the most recent one was not yet up on their website).
You can keep the arts alive. I'm talking to you grown-ups. Show your kids that creating art, making music, and attending live performances are all important and life-giving activities. And, that they don't die once you hit adulthood. My teenage boys might not have been excited to visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, but I think they'll admit it was a fun day. They experienced new things, ate at a fun restaurant, and saw a live performance. We had a great time together.
Here are a few pics from our trip to the metro.
We ate at a restaurant with an old sci-fi movie theme, called The Bad Waitress.
We had the Falcon table.
Old movie posters and good food.
I said to my twins, "Go stand in front of the portrait of the twins."
They were so thrilled! Ha!
Sometimes, they stopped to examine the paintings.
Sometimes, they took a glance and walked on by.
I snapped one quick pic of them all together.
Most of the time, we were scattered about.
Eric said, "This is one big maze!"
Go. Create. Inspire!
And, enjoy the arts. Remember, the arts are life-giving. When we spend time in our creative world, we are re-creating our lives.
Journaling Prompt: What is a story or art experience you remember from your youth?