It is World Read Aloud Day, or at least when you read this it will be World Read Aloud Day in some parts of the world. It is an immensely comforting feeling to think of us all as part of the big same world, under the big same sky. The children in the world should never feel alone, and literature always makes us feel less alone. Reading is a lot more than words on a page. It is a way for us to find connections, forge understandings, gather information, create and build ideas of our own.
I pay tribute to authors who inhabit a very particular world in which they are writing for children. Of course, E.B. White once said he didn't actually write for children, they were just his best audience. But I do think we have come a long way in understanding that the nature of childhood is that it must be protected, defended, and that safe spaces must be created for it. Children thrive and grow when they can find sanctuaries for their thinking and learn to grow their own ideas.
On this day, on World Read Aloud Day, I honor the many authors who write for children, for their tender care of the precious lives and understandings of children. Of their fears, hopes and dreams. Of using language to say, beloved child, you are never alone. Here, in honor of World Read Aloud Day, we have an interview with Todd Parr, great children's author and illustrator, great interpreter of the unique, quirky, heartbreaking, heart filling world of children.
Pam Allyn: When you write your books, do you think about how they will be read aloud?
Todd Parr: Yes, all the time.
Allyn: Where do you get your inspiration for you books?
Parr: Mostly from my childhood. I was a slow reader and had to be in a special class that made me feel different. It was my inspiration for It's Okay to be Different.
Allyn: How do you blend the art and text for your books so brilliantly?
Parr: The art is the easy thing for me. The text doesn't always come so easy, but I try and use the "Less is More" approach. I rely on the art to help me communicate the message and I have lots of help from my publishers. They are great!
Allyn: LitWorld is committed to defending the rights of childhood, and we find that your books exemplify the joys and love that childhood should have. What actions do you recommend people take to show their support of healthy happy childhood around the world?
Parr: Inspire people to feel good about themselves while learning about differences. Remind them to be kind and try to get people to laugh more.
Allyn: How does your own childhood impact your style as an author and illustrator?
Parr: I have never forgotten what it was like to not fit in, and to be made fun of because I was a slow reader. This has been the inspiration behind a lot of the messages in my work. I try to help kids feel good about themselves no matter what makes them different. As an adult, I realized that I was a visual learner and this is one of the reasons that I love to draw. I basically have the same style today that I had as a kid but maybe slightly more defined :)
Allyn: Can you share a read-aloud memory from your childhood and tell us how that text and the person reading to you have impacted your life?
Parr: It was while reading Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman. My grandmother would read that book to me all the time, especially at bedtime. I couldn't wait until she would get to the page with the poodle wearing the hat and the dogs all playing on top of the tree. When she finished the book we would talk about how funny it would be to see dogs driving a car. I ask kids all the time if dogs can drive cars.
Happy World Read Aloud Day. I hope you will find someone to read to today, in honor of all the children who so hunger for it too. And that the sound of the words in the air will be a comfort and inspiration to you, too.