Spark to Flame: My Teen Isn’t Texting, She’s Reading

“If we talked about books like this in school, I would love reading, and writing.”

That’s what my daughter told me a few nights ago. As a mother, as a writer, as a reader, it made me sit up in my chair. I was thrilled. My thirteen year old wasn’t texting, or glazing over. She was leaning forward, excited. Our discussion about her summer reading assignment, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, lit the pilot light, so to speak.

We’d discussed the book, her progress, in the past few weeks. As always, I encourage her to come to me with questions, for help, discussion with her schoolwork. But we didn’t get into any ‘nitty gritty’ until this past weekend. Part of the assignment is to create a presentation to share with the class about the book, and that included identifying the themes in the book. We started to talk about what ‘themes’ meant, and which ones might be part of the story. We looked up the word, defined it: ‘unifying or dominant ideas’. Certainly, as an author of romantic suspense, I work to incorporate themes into my stories.

But theme took on a whole new meaning for me as we started to talk about the book. I asked her what parts excited her, touched her, intrigued her, made her want to keep reading. For those of you who haven’t read the story or seen the movie, the story takes place in Nazi Germany, in 1939, and centers on a ten year old girl, Liesel, who’s lost her family. I asked my daughter why she thought Liesel was stealing books – what was her motivation? 

The answer, or answers, I told her, I felt would uncover the themes. As we talked, I could see her getting excited – she already knew the answers, and I could see it clicking into place for her. The themes were the buried treasure in the parts of the story she’d enjoyed, and connected with; the parts she’d lived through with the main character, Liesel. And as we talked some more, she couldn’t get her ideas down fast enough.

I witnessed the story coming alive for my daughter: the reader. And, as writers, isn’t that what we all strive for? Her excitement, her love of the story, inspired me to write this post.

Seeing that spark being fanned to flame awed me, not only as a mother, who’s proud of her child, growing and learning, but as a writer, who’s just been handed an up close personal look at the most important aspect of story: our readers. 

I feel incredibly lucky to have gained this renewed perspective, and to be able to share my writing experience and knowledge with my daughter (and to have a child who willingly does her homework). Who knows? Maybe she’ll be inspired to write some of her own stories.

In the meantime, it seems her assignment has become my assignment. I’ve just started reading The Book Thief.

Thanks for reading! Love to hear your thoughts.

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