Q. What sort of material do you write?
A.My children's material is a mix of stories and non-fiction pieces for supplementary reading series/language arts series as well as collections of stories, stand alone story books, and lately, novels for upper primary/lower secondary.
Q. Some people would not see the stories in language arts readers or supplementary readers as being that important or part of our children's literature. What would you say about that?
A. I quite understand them looking at it that way. However although it would seem that 'story books' are more prestigious than stories in supplementary readers/language arts readers, I believe that in small states like ours, still searching for a suitable or desirable identity, they are equally important; perhaps in some cases, the material in supplementary readers may even be more important from a national point of view.
A. Well they reach the largest audience because they are used in schools. They are often provided to the children in government primary schools by our government free of cost. Therefore they are not as affected by limited disposal income of the population at large; nor are they as affected by the inclination of adults in general to prefer foreign books when considering giving books to children.
Suggesting that children's books/stories can be of national importance may not sound very 'romantic'. It might even sound as if one is prescribing what children should read. That's not it at all. I think that once the writer is true to the concept of story, then he/she is merely holding up another mirror for the child, a different mirror from the one which reflects not us at all, but 'all things bright and beautiful and foreign'. Children, parents, teachers, librarians have a choice when selecting books, but it's important that amongst the choices are those which say 'It's okay to be me; in fact it's great to be me, and my life-style is worthy of being recorded; and I can also read other books from other regions of the world as well.
If we cannot identify with ourselves then we will always expect solutions to our problems to come from outsides. Am I suggesting that if we all read more local literature we'd have less problems? Maybe. However, until we have a better solution, we might want to try this one. Other countries down through the ages have used the concept of story to socialize their children/people to the values of the society. They even used these stories to socialize us. And in talking about story, of course we should not be limited to the printed word.
And so we should write wonderful soaring stories for our children! And yes, I do admit that I prefer those of my books which declare themselves boldly to be fiction, as fantasy, as adventure(as different from those which masquerade as material for learning,) but who knows when a story in a reading book, may clarify something for a child, leading him/her to wonderful discoveries about anything at all - through the eyes of us.
And then the entire world of stories, other people's stories as well, have more meaning.