Writers Changing Lives: A Chat With Holly Black
By Jennifer Baljko
Bestselling author Holly Black remembers exactly how she became a voracious reader.
Although her parents often read to her books like Thomasina and Heidi, sheer annoyance motivated her to learn to read on her own before she started kindergarten. It bugged her that her parents could do something she couldn’t.
“When I was very young, I would watch my parents read,” Holly said. “They would sit there quietly doing this inaccessible thing I wanted to do but couldn’t do. It was incredibly frustrating for me. It wasn’t easy to learn either.”
Once she got the hang of it, she fell into all sorts of books. What drew her in the most, though, were fantasy, fairy, and folklore stories. From Thomasina by Paul Gallico, she moved onto Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee, “a big, beautiful art book” her mother had that was “wonderfully frightening,” she said. Then came Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
These books rooted her passion and influenced her writing career. Holly, who donated The Poison Eaters and Other Stories to Worldreader, has penned numerous children and young adult contemporary fantasy novels, including the well-known The Spiderwick Chronicles, which she co-authored with Tony DiTerlizzi.
“The great thing about books is that they give you the ability to try on the lives of other people who may not be like you and who you may never meet,” Holly said. “You get a chance to be them for a little while, and see the wide range of choices you really have and how life is and could be.”
As we chatted about how increased literacy paves the way for new opportunities, our conversation shifted towards the wonder of e-readers, the impact reading has on the lives of children in the developing world, and the importance of choosing books to love. Of course, these are things close to Worldreader’s heart, too.
“There’s not one book that changes your life. There are different books at different points in your life that pull you back into reading,” she explained. “E-readers will give kids access to all sorts of books. They will able to try out different books and see where it leads them.”
“Assigned reading is great in school. But to be a reader and to love reading, you have to be able to pick something you care about. That’s what’s going to turn you into someone who loves reading,” Holly added. “There’s something powerful in saying ‘This is what I’m interested in today. This is what I feel like right now. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be interested in something else.’”
Right on, Holly! Thanks for the chat!
For more information about how Worldreader is bringing books to all in the developing world using e-readers, visit us at Worldreader.org.