A letter to educators from the author & illustrator of the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ book series

Hello Dragon Trainers & Wizards of Young Minds!

My name is Cressida Cowell and I’m the author and illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon and Wizards of Once book series.

I have spent 20 years writing middle grade fiction, and over those 20 years I have lost count of the times people have asked me, “Have you ever thought of writing for adults?” as if writing for children was some sort of second-best activity, something you do before moving on to the higher level of writing for adults.

For me, writing for children is the greatest privilege on earth.

What a gift it is, to be lucky enough to write for children, and therefore to be constantly reminded to look at the world through the cool clear eyes of a child. For children are interested in the truly important things in life. Heroism, wilderness, our relationship with the natural world, death, love, spirituality, adventure.

I ask a lot of serious questions in these fantasy books – what are your responsibilities to your friends, your family, your Tribe? To nature, to the environment? All subjects that the kid emerging from childhood into adulthood is beginning to think about.

But I deliberately try and provide emotional support and wisdom for the kid reader, without being preach-y. I’m not a believer in taking children to a scary place and leaving them there. So although I tackle serious issues, and never dumb them down, my books have a strong moral framework and they seek to help children with the challenges they will face in the growing up process.

I am always very happy if someone says to me that they have been through a difficult time, of being bullied, or having a death in the family, and my books have helped them through that.

 

Idea for educators: Free Writing Friday to inspire student creativity

 

Having a safe space to explore ideas is so important for children to develop their writing – which is why I’ve started a campaign to encourage children to have a notebook they can write in which there are NO rules, NO grading or marking, just FUN! It’s called Free Writing Friday and I’m asking teachers to set aside time every Friday for their class to take part. It gives children the freedom to write, draw and doodle without worrying about their work being corrected. I hope that you will join me in this weekly experience with your own students! You can also find some of my Flipgrid writing challenges for your students here to help spark their imagination and get started with their own writing notebooks.

 

On the importance and impact of reading aloud to children

 

I write books to be read aloud, by adults, to their kids.

Reading aloud to children is a wonderful way of getting them to enjoy books, and associate books with pleasure.

So with reading-aloud in mind, I think about my books as a performance, and the mouth-feel of the words, the loudness or softness, or bellow-yness of the characters. It’s why I gave Toothless a stammer, and Squeezjoos and the sprites in Wizards of Once a bit of a his-s-sy lis-s-sp, and Sychorax a voice as mild as the point of an icicle … so that they make a joyous acting performance, particularly if you are lucky enough to have David Tennant narrate them, as he does with both the How to Train Your Dragon and Wizards of Once series.

I always say to parents, read with your kids, just ten minutes a day, way beyond the age the kid can read for themselves. Books read to you in your parents’ voice live with you all your life.

Reading a book aloud is a shared joy, and sends an important message to the children being read to: books are important, books are powerful, magical things, that can make your dad cry, or your mum laugh, and have the sort of wisdom in them that can change your life.

 

Connecting with students through Skype in the Classroom

 

I am so delighted for the opportunity to work with Skype in the Classroom to bring an exciting broadcast and live chat experience to your students on March 6. An author speaking directly to you in your classroom brings reading and writing alive for a student, just as a parent or teacher reading aloud to children can open up a lifetime’s enjoyment of books.

Classrooms around the world will be able to tune in to this Skype in the Classroom broadcast event as we explore together how to open imaginations and create new worlds. I’ll be answering as many questions as I can live after each event. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I hope you’ll join us with your students on March 6!

I can’t wait!

 

 


Ok, I’m in! How can I join the event and prepare my classroom?

Check out the How to Train Your Dragon Flipgrid Challenges

Click here for free STEM resources