Max Elliot Anderson grew up as a reluctant reader. After surveying the market, he sense the need for action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 – 13, especially boys. Using his extensive experience in the production of motion pictures, videos, and television commercials, Mr. Anderson brings the same visual excitement and heart-pounding action to his stories. Each book has completely different characters, setting, and plot. He’s also begun a traditional series. Seven books are published, with an additional twenty-nine manuscripts completed. Young readers have reported that reading one of his books is like being in an exciting or scary movie. Visit Max at: Books for Boys Blog http://booksandboys.blogspot.com, Author Web Site http://www.maxbooks.9k.com/index_1.html, Video - Captain Jack's Treasure, or My Youtube Videos.
Reading Sparks Young Readers’ Imaginations
Recently I had the opportunity to speak to over one hundred elementary school students in an assembly. Later I went to three classrooms for a writing exercise. (This link has more details about the “Imagine” program I give in schools and libraries: HERE.
Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
The day at the elementary school began by showing several of my Book Trailers for my action-adventures and mysteries. These short clips opened their eyes and prepared the way for what was to come next. Most of my life I’ve been involved in the production of dramatic films, video programs, and TV commercials, so I know how effective video can be, especially with kids.
In my film production work, I have seen how powerful music and sound effects can be in creating the proper mood in each scene. But there’s a downside to audiovisuals for kids. For our purposes, audiovisuals will be confined to television, movies, video games, and the various apps that are used where reading is not necessary.
Audiovisual is passive, meaning that the programs happen in front of the viewer. Everything is packaged in such a way that the viewer doesn’t even have to think. Certainly the imagination isn’t necessary. But reading is an active process. When reading a book, the reader can’t actually see the characters or hear their voices and the surrounding sounds. Nor can the reader see what’s in the room or the background. They can’t smell odors, or feel temperature.
Reading forces each reader to use the imagination, and imagination is like a muscle that grows and strengthens the more it is used.
Young children begin life with an active imagination; however, this gift can be dulled if the mind is filled with other thoughts and information from everyday life.
The opposite of reading and imagination might be watching television or movies. Here, everything is skillfully laid out by the producers so the viewer needs little or no imagination at all. Characters can be seen on the screen along with costumes, settings, and other visual cues. To tap into the emotions of viewers, sound effects and music are used along with makeup and, what we call in the production business, painting with light. You might be surprised how much emotional power the right lighting brings to the screen.
When reading, the young reader has to form all of these images from the visual cues the author uses by painting with words.
Even though I’m in the audiovisual production business, I grew up before televisions were in every home. Hard to imagine, I know, but I view this as an asset in my writing today. Imagine no TV, video games, computers, smartphones, iPads, or any of the devices we consider necessities. As children back then, we had to invent our own fun. We’d make harmless bows and arrows out of string and sticks. Swords were made from similar materials. We’d imagine ourselves to be in a great movie as we played cops and robbers, or acted out some Old West scene.
Today, all a child has to do is plop down in front of a screen and watch someone else, instead of inventing their own mystery, fun, and adventure using imagination.
Scholastic and Harrison Group, a leading marketing and strategic research consulting firm, conducted an interesting study in 2010 where parents were asked questions about their children ages six through seventeen. The results showed that reading for fun drops off as children begin to use digital devices. Parents said that the use of these devices had a negative effect on the time their children spent reading books (41%), involved in physical activities (40%), or interacting with family (33%).
At the same time, e-books seemed to have the potential for positive influence: 57 percent said they were interested in trying an e-book and it might make reading more fun. The job for parents is to find out what works for each child, as long as reading time increases. So what constitutes reading?
Twenty-five percent of these children thought that texting qualified as reading.
A key to increasing reading frequency and length centered around letting the kids choose their own books. Their preference, at 66 percent, was to read printed books. I also found this to be true when I surveyed a group of students in my recent school visit. Very few had tried e-books yet.
“I like to hold a book on my lap,” one student told me.
“I like turning the pages,” another said. And several others said they also liked holding a book or turning the pages.
Some of the other results of the Scholastic study included:
28% of kids (ages 9–17) think that reading social media posts qualify as reading.
25% of kids (ages 6–17) have read an e-book—most of these were on a computer.
43% of kids and parents say that when reading books for fun, it’s most important for the imagination to be strengthened.
86% of kids feel proud and have a sense of accomplishment when they finish reading a Book.
50% of kids say reading books for fun is extremely or very important.
71% of parents wish their children would read more books for fun.
75% of children say they realize they should read more.