As writers, we all like to believe that we are doing something worthwhile. Not only will our books engage and entertain young readers, we are giving them the tools that they need to live better lives and even to change the world.
That’s what we want to believe. But how can we tell if it is true or not?
Every now and then, something happens that allows an author to see that her book has has a positive impact. Linda Sue Park, author of A Long Walk to Water, tells about one of these situations in this TED talk. Her book tells two parallel stories. In one it is 1985 and Salva is one of Sudan’s lost boys orphaned by war and searching for a home and family. In the other story, Nya has to walk for hours every day to get water for her family.
The amazing thing about this book is how deeply children connect with it. Teachers write Park letters and tell about how the book is loved by NONreader and how their students read far beyond the required chapter, finishing the entire book. Then there is the tangible evidence — students holding fundraisers so that they can send money to Water for South Sudan, a well-building organization started by none other than Salva, the young man in the book. Just how much have they raised? You’ll have to watch the video to find find out.
No, a book itself cannot change the world. But it can prime the pump and enable young readers to begin making big changes themselves.