I didn’t learn to read in school. School was a necessary part of the process, and they did a reasonable job of teaching me the basics. But I really learned to read well first by following along as my mother read to me, and then reading by myself, in the car, in bed, in school, after school… you get the idea.
For me, reading was not a pastime, or even an obsession, it was a fundamental way of connecting with the world. I read the “boy books” of the day, Tom Swift, Rick Brant, Chip Hilton, and the like. Often, these had a technical or sci-fi element to them that demonstrated to me how people can change the world just by thinking. I devoured Edgar Rice Burroughs, HP Lovecraft, EE Smith and other authors of a previous generation. These authors provided me, in the guise of a basically recreational activity, with two gifts:
First, I developed a sense of wonder. The authors I liked loved to speculate, to describe what might be, or what can’t be seen. Whether it was a titanic battle between sub-sea monsters in the depths of the ocean, or the machinations of many-tentacled horrors beyond the stars, there was often a sense in these books that something tremendously cool (or at least interesting in the case of the tentacle horrors) could be hiding just out of sight. Every child should experience this, wonder is the root of curiosity, which is the root of learning, and frankly we struggle with its management today.
Second, I learned to read quickly and fluidly. I came to find out that for anyone who is going to make a living with their mind, reading really is a fundamental way of connecting with the world. I was just a little early to the party. This was not, I hasten to add, because I was smart; I just a nerd at a young age. Still am, actually, and make no apologies.
As I grew older and began to attempt to help young people ready themselves for life and work, I found that some kids weren’t getting the connection I had with the written word. I remember one boy in particular, who I was tutoring as part of a local program, who simply didn’t like to read. He found it to be work. But he liked Batman, so we successfully read Batman.
Now, I love comics. But to be a good reader, you need to be able to confront a page of words without pictures and pull meaning out of it. After some thought, I became convinced that at least part of the problem was that nobody was writing for this young man’s demographic. A boy needs to be able to see himself in the hero, it’s just the way we’re made, and nobody was telling that story for him.
So, that in a nutshell is what we’re going to do. We’re seeking writers with the ability to grab these kids and throw them into the wonders of the written word like the authors above did for me. We’re going to get you, the authors, some exposure and a little cash, and if our bigger plans work out, we’re going to get you a bunch more exposure. In return, you are going to build worlds.
– Jim Nightingale