Thursday, May 19, 2016

Rediscovering the Wonder of a Children's Storybook

I was overseas last week to conduct a training for those aspiring to write for children and young people. My co-trainer Emily Lim from Singapore is an award-winning children’s book author whose works have been translated into different languages. Naturally, she was tasked to share about writing children’s storybooks. My assignment was to teach the participants how to write devotional and personal experience articles.

            Although I came to the writers’ workshop as a trainer, I was expecting to learn more about writing children’s story from Emily. Many years ago, my first attempts in writing were stories for children. I attended workshops for writing for children and wrote stories soon after. Eagerly, I submitted them to a publisher but not one of the stories was turned into a book. I picked up the pieces of my broken ego, and mustered strength to write again for children. Satisfied by the fruit of my labor, I took another bold step: I entered a national contest. Sadly, the story didn’t impress the judges. I was so discouraged I stopped writing stories for children. Instead, I turned to writing magazine articles, curriculum, and radio scripts for children. Occasionally, I would write short stories for students as part of my textbooks, but I have given up hope of writing a storybook for younger kids.

            So at the workshop, I took notes of what my co-trainer shared about writing storybooks for children—the parameters of writing for different age groups, the classic story structure, “sins” to avoid in writing for children. There were also many books displayed at the training, and so I had the chance to feel once again the hard covers of a children’s book, feast on the splash of colors on its pages, and hear the rhythm of the words that were meticulously put together by the author. Each participant also shared the summary of the book they’ve read, and by one they came. The sense of wonder came. Pleasure made sure his presence was felt. That “aha!” moment finally arrived. The joy of reading and hearing a retelling of a children’s story was coming back to me. There I was, an adult rediscovering the wonder of a children’s storybook.

            There were times I choked when I heard about how a poor teddy bear longed to be loved, or how a rocking horse, when given a chance to be real, chose to remain a toy for a disabled friend. I surely identified with the fearful little seed and the worrisome fox who both had to go through unfamiliar situations. How can that story of trusting God through fear and change told in a child’s language also speak to an adult like me? That’s the power of a children’s story.

            I didn’t come out of the training with the resolve to pick up the pen, so to speak, and begin writing stories for children again. No, I came back with a renewed appreciation for children’s storybook writers like Emily and the others I know from the Philippines. I will, most probably, open another children’s storybook the next time I visit a bookstore, or maybe download an e-book. And then, as I read again, I hope the wonder returns. 

If you wish to read children's books published in the Philippines, I recommend books published by the Hiyas imprint of Omf Literature

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