Three year-old Grace came dashing into my studio like a clog dancer.
Dressed in summer shorts and a crop top, I could tell she was upset by the stomping
of her cowboy boots on the tile floor.
I’m a children’s writer and I guess to young Gracie, I would know the answer.
Yes, I thought of saying, readers add the colors to our books. When writers write, and readers read they enter into a contract. The writer puts the words down on the page, trying to tell a story. Then the reader comes along and gives meaning to the words. It is the connections and links that the reader brings to the story that give meaning and add color to the words. But how do I explain this to a three year-old so that she can understand? It is the writer’s job to build bridges that let the reader enter into the story, to develop empathy for the characters and to understand the change that happens to the main character and feel the struggles the character has gone through. Oh yes, adults add the color to books as we read them. But, I had a hunch from her stomping this wasn’t really the question Gracie was asking.
I picked her up, sat her in my lap.
“What do you mean, Gracie? Do you want to tell me about it?”
“Donnie said I couldn’t color the page in my coloring book that I wanted to. I want to color the princess having a tea party with the fairies, but he says I have to color one page at a time, front to back—that’s how grownups read a story. He took my crayons and broke them because I wouldn’t color the next page with a dumb old prince.”
“He wanted to tell you how to read a book?”
“Yes, and that isn’t right!”
“Nope, you should be able to read a book anyway you want. Would a box of colored pencils help?”
“Yes, thank you,” Gracie said as she rushed out of my studio.
Is it afternoon nap time yet? I want to dream about the color readers add to my stories.