The first full week of February is Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week. It’s impossible to estimate how many young readers have been born from the works of the various authors who wrote for children and the artists who illustrated those works over the years, but it’s bound to be considerable. And I’m one of those who became a reader as a result of several such authors.
I’m not too familiar with the illustrators, although I’m sure that I spent nearly as much time looking at the drawings of the books I read as I did reading the words. If it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, then I’ve “read” many books just by looking at the pictures!
When my wife and I had our children growing up at home, we introduced them to many of the same authors who had influenced us as children. We also all learned from those children’s books the truth of Ronald Reagan’s sage observation: “You can never be lonely if you have a good book.”
It’s hard to single out one, or even just a few, authors who most influenced me and my family members because we read a host of writers, but I’ll take a stab at it. I’ve written in earlier posts of how the Hardy Boys series and the Landmark Books influenced me. But those were just some of the many, and they came during my late elementary years. Here are a few others that came even earlier.
Beverly Cleary wrote the two delightful series of books about Ramona and Henry Huggins. Our girls loved those books.
Robert McCloskey wrote (and, talented man that he was, illustrated as well) Homer Price and Make Way for Ducklings. (Who could forget that fabulous donut machine?)
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the Little House series of books from which the TV series The Little House on the Prairie was born.
E. B. White wrote Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. Imagine my surprise when, years later, as a fledgling editor, I realized that he was the same author as one of the duo of Strunk & White fame, co-authoring The Elements of Style.
And how could I forgive myself if I didn’t pay homage to Jesse Stuart? His Penny’s Worth of Character, The Beatinest Boy, and The Rightful Owner are especially important for developing values and character in young readers.
These authors and many others like them did a great service to millions of young people over the years because their books made–and continue to develop–readers. (If I’ve left out your favorite authors, please write and tell me who they were and why.)
May our mantra–and our personal example–ever be what was written above the door of the children’s reading room of the Hopkinton, Massachusetts, Library:
Books are keys to wisdom treasure;
Books are gates to lands of pleasure;
Books are paths that upward lead;
Books are friends. Come, let us read.