Don’t forget the kids

REMINDER: This is Wednesday. Normally I would feature a Guest Reader in this spot. If you would like to send me your picture and something about your writing journey (not to exceed 500 words) or a poem or other brief sample of your work, I’m ready when you are.

Years ago when I served on a school board, our president used to remind us what we were about. “Always ask yourself,” she would say, “if it’s good for kids.” She had a point. Sometimes we became so involved in the process of decision making and writing policies that we nearly overlooked the real reason we were there.

Now and then I think writers also need to ask ourselves if what we’re doing has our readers in mind. Before our work reaches the young people we write for, we must get through a crowd of adults — editorial reader, editor, executive editor, art director, sales manager, marketing director, book buyer, librarian, teacher, and parent. It’s tempting to focus on the grownups who stand between us and our audience yet what we write must be with children in mind, real kids who sit down with our work and judge for themselves if we’ve got it right or not.

School is starting. If you want to do research that counts, volunteer this year to visit a few schools. Talk to kids, read to them, answer their questions. Or volunteer at one school, tutoring, working one-on-one with students in your favorite age range.

There is no better way to know what kids are like these days than to spend some time with them. Teachers know this, of course. That’s why some teachers turn to writing sooner or later.

Tomorrow I’ll introduce Jan Greenberg. I hope you come by to meet her.