Let me set the scene: my 8th birthday party. Sleepover: pretty big deal. My friends had taken the bus home with me on a Friday afternoon. Everyone was ready to get down and celebrate (as much as second graders can) when I suggested that we all do our weekend assignment of 30 minutes quiet reading time.
“Just to get it done so then we’re not worrying about it,” said I, the ever-practical child. I settled atop my bed with Oliver Twist, after lending my friends books from my fledgling personal library. We proceeded to read in silence, even after my parents tried to dissuade me, alarmed at what must have been the quietest birthday party of all time. This, my friends, is nerdy-ness at its essence.
If that didn’t convince you, behold the as-yet-unpublished manuscript of one of my many childhood chapbooks. As you’ll note, I was very into writing didactic nonfiction:
My favorite part of this is the “About the Author,” which, looking back, I always included in my work. While the firm grasp I had on writing in the third person is noteworthy, I love most the benevolent conclusion: She has written a lot of books for her class. As if I were a missionary for literacy on their behalf! Oy. So embarrassing.
This self-consciousness that comes with reflection is what I want to write about here. My family and I laugh at these memories, and marvel at my unabashed affection for reading and writing. Clearly, I considered myself a master of storytelling at a very young age. Books, words and language were things that I cared about very much, and I had no qualms incorporating them into my daily life.
Then, of course, there was that inevitable transition out of childhood, when it’s no longer cool to write sparse prose about cold weather attire. Maybe it never was, but I didn’t care—until I did.
Jerry Spinelli writes about this very moment—when a child loses a childlike innocence and gains a grown-up awareness— in his upcoming book, Hokey Pokey. It’s too fitting not to mention, especially since I am what is affectionately known in Nerdy Book Club circles as a #pushypublicist. And this brings me full circle, because after an adolescence trying to cover up my nerdy language obsession, I embraced it: took creative writing in high school, went to college and majored in French and English, did my senior capstone in Poetry, and was just pushy/nerdy/lucky enough to end up at Random House.
I work in children’s books, and since my job is to make sure readers are discovering and discussing our authors, I can’t help but wonder about the young people who aren’t. Maybe they’ve already had their “Hokey Pokey moment” (seriously, add to TBR pile) and feel too cool for reading. Maybe they don’t pass around books with their friends anymore. Maybe their parents think they should be focusing on testing and extracurriculars. Or maybe they are reading constantly, like I was, and just don’t feel like they should talk about it.
All I can do is send books and authors out into the universe with as many emails, events, and hashtags as possible. All I can do is try to connect these stories with their young audiences and make it nearly impossible for kids to ignore their inner bookworm. All I can do is hope that with enough pushy publicity, reading will be so encouraged and celebrated that kids won’t think twice about turning their birthday parties into nerdy book clubs.
About the author: Lauren is 24 years old and has 4 people in her family. She has written a lot of press releases for her authors.
Lauren Donovan is a Publicist, Social Media Specialist at Random House Children’s Books.