Why do you get out of bed each morning? So you can have a coffee? So you can achieve what your calendar demands? So you can do Thing A at Place B before Time C?
If you’re like me, you’ve answered YES to all these things.
But if you’re reading this article, then you’re also driven by greater goals (but don’t get me wrong: the goal of achieving a flat white is indeed a great one).
If you’re like me, you’re driven by a desire to improve children’s literacy. You get a buzz every time a kid’s face lights up. At the joy of a new story, with the spark of a new understanding, or the surprise of an unexpected fart joke. And that means you’re making magic. You’re 100% sorcerer! Congratulations!
Making that particular brand of magic is what has been getting me out of bed every morning for two decades. This is my twentieth year as a children’s science journalist – and my twelfth year as a children’s author. And every morning (okay, so, almost every morning), I jump out of bed feeling lucky to be feeding the brains and souls of our next generation.
For me, children’s literacy boils down to four superpowers:
Whether it’s facing the blank page, the rejection of a beloved manuscript, or that ten-page double-sided letter from your editor, being an author requires great courage. And so does being alive.
In all my work, I aim to show kids that they are enough. They have what it takes to get through hard times.
When Wednesday Week’s grandfather is kidnapped by the awful (and hygiene-challenged) Gorgomoth, Wednesday has no idea how she’s going to get him back safely. But she knows she has to try. And try she does!
Because having courage means you feel the fear, and you make the right choice anyway. I want that for every child.
Creativity is the superpower that bans boredom and provides purpose. (Please don’t confuse ‘creativity’ with ‘TV’: only one of these should be turned off.)
Creativity – spoiler alert! – is what helps Wednesday Weeks defeat Gorgomoth in every book. Wednesday applies what she knows in fresh ways. She invents new solutions, she tries and fails and learns from her mistakes.
And slap me with a block of Lindt Excellence Supreme if it’s not true that right now our world needs creativity more than ever. Creativity is about shining new light along the global-challenges tunnel. I want creativity as a superpower for every child.
Compassion is perhaps the most super of the powers that literacy brings. Stories can transport children, help them walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, let them know they’re not alone when they feel lonely. Through books, kids can fight a dragon, face a bully, make a friend.
Right from the start of the series, Wednesday feels for her bossy Grandpa, somehow understanding that beneath all that beard and all that power there’s a vulnerable, aging, ordinary man. She feels for her best friend Alfie, who longs to be magical and can never get it right. And she learns to understand her own feelings, too. She learns to be kind to herself, because nobody – not even a sorcerer – is perfect. (And let’s face it: trying to be perfect is exhausting!)
Compassion is about understanding that for all the things that make us different, there’s so much more that makes us the same. We can teach our kids all the maths and science and history we like, but if we’re not also teaching empathy and compassion, we’re not doing it right.
Our kids can only make a real difference in their world if they have the skills they need to thrive.
We don’t even know what those skills will be – the future is a wild and woolly place. But we know we’ll need inventors, innovators and sense-makers.
Curiosity is just another word for science. So let’s develop our kids’ capabilities. Let’s empower them. Let’s help them fall in love with learning.
We don’t know what our future holds, but we are united in wanting that future to be bright.
I don’t think there’s anything more important than helping our children develop the tools they need to engage with their future. Even if sometimes coffee might feel more important.
The need to step towards a brighter future is the real reason we all get out of bed every morning. And I’m proud of all of us for making that very special kind of magic.
Cristy Burne has performed in a science circus, worked as a garbage analyst, and was a reporter at CERN when they turned on the Large Hadron Collider. Along with Denis Knight, Cristy is co-author of the Wednesday Weeks series, which asks the question: In a world of magic, can science save the day? Cristy is a popular presenter and is passionate about empowering our next generation of creative, science-savvy citizens. She also loves chocolate.
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