At the Huntsville Downtown Art Stroll last night, three small children stopped at my table and began to interview me:
“Did you write these books?”
“Do you like to read?”
“What are they about?”
I offered them bookmarks and answered their many questions. Since teen drinking wasn’t an age-appropriate topic, I told them Drive to June was about a girl who learned how to drive a car—which is also true. Several minutes into the interview, their mother caught up and said they were just learning to read.
“Reading is a lifelong joy,” I said. “What do you like to read?”
“Oh, I love Shel Silverstein!”
“And Dr. Seuss.”
“Are You My Mother is my favorite,” I said. “Have you read Where the Wild Things Are?”
“Did you write that?”
“No!” I laughed. “I wish! It’s an excellent book!”
“We’ve read Where the Wild Things Are,” their mother said. “Remember?” She thanked me and herded them on with promises of ice cream.
After they left, I continued enjoying my evening of people and dog-watching. There was a boy in an alligator suit and a man with a cat hand puppet, and I can only assume they were advertising for a local theatre production. Diners pulled in front of the swanky restaurant across the street and blocked the street to wait for the valet parking, and horns blared from the cars stuck in the intersection behind them. It was high drama.
My greatest thrills of the evening came from fan visits. One reader stopped by to say she’d met me at a previous event and had bought two of my books. She read both of them and enjoyed them, and now she wanted to purchase the other two—signed of course.
Then, as I was packing up my table at the end of the evening, another girl raced up to my table and said, “You’re still here!”
“I am.” Barely.
“We were all the way on the other side of the square,” she said. “And we ran over here before you left.”
She explained to her parents that she’d met me at an earlier event but didn’t have money to buy my books. Would they buy some for her now?
I pulled a copy of each novel out of my suitcase, spread them across the table, and described what each was about.
“Can I have all four?” she asked her mom.
She made her choices. I signed them and thanked her. She looked delighted. I know I was. Who are those naysayers that claim young people aren’t reading anymore? I’d spent an evening talking to future young journalists who read Shel Silverstein. I’d been pursued by teenage readers and returning fans who clearly loved books. My faith in the future reading public remains strong.
What about you? Do you think young people are reading more or less? I'd love to hear from you.