Children's literature has been in the news this week both locally and on a national level.
Here in Marquette, the annual Young Authors Conference took place at Northern Michigan University this week. About 3,000 students from 14 schools plus one home-schooled group took part in reading and writing activities as they have for many years thanks to the planning efforts of a dedicated group of educators.
Nationally, legions mourned Tuesday's passing of Maurice Sendak, the author of "Where The Wild Things Are" and other masterpieces in children's literature. His books were creative but never cloying, sweet but never sentimental. He was a pioneer in the children's book world in one especially amazing way: He told the truth about childhood, its freedoms, its quirks and its fears.
"From their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions - fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, they continually cope with frustrations as best they can," Sendak said upon receiving the Caldecott Medal for "Where the Wild Things Are" in 1964, according to a report from The Associated Press after his passing. "And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming wild things."
"Where the Wild Things Are," above all of Sendak's groundbreaking work, is a book that touched the minds and spurred the imaginations of several generations of youngsters.
We believe it will continue to do so, long after Sendak's death.
In light of Sendak's passing, it's reassuring to know children are being reached by the Young Authors program, which encourages them to not only read great works but to create their own. As a special feature of this wonderful program, the children exchange messages with a pen pal from another school district in the months leading up to the conference, then get to meet one another during Young Authors.
How thrilling for them to be able to share the creative process with a peer in this manner. We congratulate Young Authors on another year of encouraging our youth to express themselves, to tap into their creative process while they are just beginning to find their place in the world.
And we encourage parents everywhere to do something special to honor the memory of Maurice Sendak: Sit down with your kids and read a book together, be it in the form an old-fashioned paper tome or a new-fashioned e-reader. Reading is an important building block in life: Be a family that loves it.