Motivate Kids To Read and Write!
I hated reading. I really didn’t enjoy writing, and my grades reflected it. I wasn’t exactly the prospect for becoming an author. Why did I need to read when I had Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis? There was always a new Sonic game and a more enhanced Dr. Robotnik to beat. I’d sit for hours in my blue video rocker chair glued to that black controller, connected to my character through a five foot black cord.
Occasionally I’d venture outside with my friends, but that addictive little blue hedgehog always called me back. I remember one of my friends trying to get me to read Louis Lamoure. I think I made it halfway through a chapter. I’d skim the required reading books, and the grades on my book reports would prove it. In high school, my streak of “not reading” continued, and my writing reflected the minimum page or word count required to get a B or C.
It wasn’t until college that I read a book because I wanted to. The series I chose is the sometimes hated, but mostly beloved, Harry Potter series. Now some of you reading this are already averting your eyes, and that’s okay; that’s your choice, like reading the books was mine. But let me tell you something the series did for me and many other kids like me: it got me excited about reading. We could debate the magic of the Harry Potter world as good, bad, etc., but the real magic about the books was the creative world that drew young readers in. My imagination was opened and the characters felt like friends. In fact, the series inspired me to become a writer. Before I talk about the writing thing, let’s take a bit of a tangent.
Now why did I decide to pick this series up? Well, I met this beautiful girl, and we challenged each other to see who could finish the entire book series first. The only title not out was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The only reason I was able to catch up to her was because we both had to wait for the release of the final book. So when it finally came out, we sat in a Borders bookstore (sadly they went the way of the dodo bird) and waited for the midnight release.
The next few days were devoted to reading as much as possible and I am proud to say I won. Now it is debated if my winning was completely above board or not and here is why. Early on in our competition, we went to a friend’s house for a nice home cooked Italian dinner. As we ate, I excused myself from the dinner table to use the restroom. As I passed my girlfriend’s purse I slipped out her copy of The Half Blood Prince and took it with me. Then I proceeded to read it for the next half hour; needless to say, my absence in the restroom for so long, was causing everyone else some concern, but no one checked, and I made quite a bit of ground on my reading. Now with that confession over, you can judge if I won or not. But I did indeed win in the long run because the girl married me!
So Harry Potter inspired me to read, and it also inspired me to write, but the writing thing is twofold. One, I thought how cool would it be to create my very own world, or at least my very own characters. And two, I want to write a book series that is a bit more ethical than Harry Potter. You see my real beef with the Harry Potter series is not the magic because, sorry to burst your bubble, but magic isn’t real. My opposition to the series is the lack of an honorable hero. You see, though Harry appears to be a great hero, he sort of got there through a whole lot of lying, disobedience, and arrogance at times. To tell kids that Harry is a hero, when he overcame evil by committing many wrongs of his own, seems wrong. It’s like saying, Sure, little Billy, steal that candy bar as long as in the end you overcome a great trial. NO! WRONG!
I wanted to give readers characters they could really look up to, characters they could learn from and trust. Something else I wanted to do, specifically for The Quest for Truth, was provide a story without unnecessary death. This wasn’t a reflection of Harry Potter, but of many series for kids and young adults, and not just in the secular marketplace. How often do our kids read of a sword slicing through someone, or of a gun fight? We probably wouldn’t let them watch such violece on TV, so why would we let them read it in a book?
So with the desire to provide authentic moralistic heroes and a storyline without unnecessary death, I began writing The Quest for Truth. And though this kid who hated reading and writing, hadn’t read anything until he was in college, and hadn’t written anything larger than a few thousand word research paper, wrote a 100,000 word manuscript with no prospect of getting it published. After all I was a college student in the middle of the cornfields of Illinois getting a degree in marketing. It wasn’t until later that God opened up some pretty amazing doors.
The fact is God has His plans for us. Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
So what are you waiting for? You just read this nearly 1000 word article; go read some books. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to write some of your own!
Also at this time The Quest for Truth is specially priced on Amazon Kindle. Taken (book 1) is available for $0.99 on Amazon Kindle, Risk (book 2) is $4.99 on Amazon Kindle, Unleash (book 3) is $4.99 on Amazon Kindle and the latest release, Tangle (book 4) is $4.99 on Amazon Kindle. So grab your copies now.
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Brock Eastman lives in Colorado with his wife, four kids, two cats, and leopard gecko. Brock is the author of The Quest for Truth series, the Sages of Darkness series, Showdown with the Shepherd in the Imagination Station series, and the novella Wasted Wood. He writes articles for FamilyFiction digital magazine and Clubhouse magazine. You may have seen him on the official Adventures in Odyssey podcast and on its Social Shout-Out. He was the first producer of and launched the Odyssey Adventure Club. Brock currently works for Compassion International, whose mission is to release kids from poverty worldwide. Brock enjoys getting letters and artwork from fans. You can keep track of what he is working on and connect with him at the following online venues:
I too was an avid Sonic fan. The difference is, one hot summer day, my parents banned me from the Genesis after too much play (Hyper Sonic, oh yeah). In rebellion, I began writing Sonic fanfic. 34 novel-length fics later, I went into publishing. 😀
Your books sound fascinating! I’m glad that you found a love for good storytelling.
That’s awesome. I loved Sonic! I should have thought of fanfic. Let me know what you think about the books.
To be fair though, Harry lives in a world where adults are useless if not actively harmful to him, and he’s in the middle of a rather nasty war in which the good side is ineffectual to the point of being unable to defend their children’s school. There’s a limit to how moral he can be, and still be realistic. I’d go tell Dumbledore to fight his own battles myself; the man can’t even keep his own school free of trolls, basilisks, harmful trees, etc.
Hahaha. And know that I still love the Harry Potter series. I look forward to these new spin off movies, and hope their is a novelization to go with, for my collection. (I doubt the Hogwarts Library book that was the basis will hardly touch the story being developed for a three movie spinoff.) That said I agree with what you said about Harry and what he faced, and it was great storytelling. That said, the thought behind his character and struggles, is what inspired me to write what I did. Which was your favorite book in the series?
Probably the first, where it was still more of a school adventure. Not really a fan of the “growing him up approach,” I guess.
The whole ‘Harry doesn’t get in trouble for stuff’ turned me off the books for a long time, and even now that I like them, I still think the lack of responsible adults in the books is absurd. Oh, there are some ‘good’ adults, but like, parent figures? Just the Weasleys.
Yeah, I agree with that as well. There are many other books that do this, in order to focus on a young hero. Having an adult in some of these series would take all the adventure and danger out of the story. It’s sort of like that YouTube channel that does all of the “How the movie should have ended.”
My husband isn’t much of a reader but the Harry Potter books, and the Left Behind series, both motivated him to really read.
Agreed! Great books.
I think one reason why people tolerate more violence in kid’s books than they do movies is because books are less vivid. I know growing up I could read something gory and barely notice, but if I saw that same violence in a movie I might have cringed a little. I think the violence in media thing can be tricky. I wouldn’t necessarily advocate a huge amount of violence in kid’s stories, but at the same time I think kid’s stories have a bad habit of trivializing death and violence. While they may treat the death of a hero as tragic, and a hero might feel some remorse for killing a certain arch villain, battles are still often treated like a big adventure, with opponents being carelessly mown down as if they were faceless puppets.. There have been many more violent shows that treat violence for the horrible thing it is, and show how traumatizing a battlefield can be, rather than passing it off as fun.
As far as deceptive chars, I agree that kids need good moral examples, but as authors we need to ask ourselves if we are writing realistic characters. Even the best people often make huge moral mistakes. I think we should show kids what to do when they make such a mistake, in addition to showing them how important it is to avoid mistakes.