Steve Cole is a bundle of energy and watching him enthrall a group of year three and four children with his tales of aliens and vampire fruit, it is not surprising when they leave the “Authors Aloud” event bubbling with ideas. I met Steve afterwards and asked him for his thoughts about encouraging our young readers and writers at school and home.
For the sake of a number we agreed on saying that to date he has published 160 of his own books (including some as Stephen Cole for older teens). At only forty five years of age it made me wonder how this is possible and he admits that he is sometimes up all night writing a book, for example for the popular “Young Bond” series. His best known series for kids is the Astrosaurs series based on an idea that Steve had whilst writing for the BBC on “Walking With Dinosaurs”. He preferred the idea that the dinosaurs had foreseen their terrible fate on earth and had escaped to space before the asteroids had hit. The best-selling books that he then wrote follow the adventures of these astronaut dinosaurs in space.
I asked Steve for some advice for us as parents to encourage our young readers and writers. We spoke about some of the things that we as parents often do, even when trying to encourage our children, which can actually harm their interest.
As a dad, Steve knows how frustrating it can be when your child wants to read the 100th book out of one series! We want them to read a wide variety of books so we try to steer them towards books we think they “should” be reading, but Steve points out that the children actually feel comfortable with these fictional characters and enjoy entering into this familiar world with them and going on adventures. If we complain, we are effectively criticising their taste and teaching them snobbery: reading for pleasure should be just that, the child enjoying the book on their own terms.
After listening to Steve talk to the children and then speaking to him afterwards there were so many times when he started an idea simply with “what if?”. The idea of the “Chombies“ came from asking the children “What if a chair got bitten by a zombie and became a Chombie and wanted to bite your butt?”. The children loved this idea and we got caught up in the idea of battling Chombies at school.
Steve often reads his books aloud to his own children for some (brutally) honest feedback and also simply to get a feel for the story himself and spot the areas which are “clunky” and need to be changed. I’m definitely going to be using this at school to encourage my students to improve on their own writing by reading it aloud to someone they trust.
My biggest input from Steve for me as a blogger was simply to write more! I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about what I am going to write and not actually just getting down and writing it. He is used to rejection and throwing an idea away if it doesn’t roll the way he (or his publisher) wants it to and moving on.
It was a privilege to meet Steve and see him interact with the children. His latest book in the Young Bond series “Red Nemesis” came out on May 4th. If you get the chance to take your children along to meet him then you definitely should. His enthusiasm for reading and writing is contagious and will sweep along the most reluctant of reader and involve them in creating a world where anything is possible if you just start at the “What if?”.