By JOHN Y. COLE
Authors Stephen King, his wife Tabitha and their son Owen read from their books and answered questions from D.C. area high-school students at an entertaining educational program in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium on April 4.
The program was sponsored jointly by PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Most of the more than 200 students were from Cardozo High School and IDEA Public Charter School.
Prior to the event, PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools had provided the students with free copies of the authors’ books and worked with teachers to help prepare students for the event, which was filmed by C-SPAN’s “Book TV” for later broadcast.
Tabitha King, who at one time worked as a library assistant and thought she might become a librarian, spoke eloquently about the importance of both fiction and the act of reading. The great pleasure of fiction, she said, is that it enables one to “enter other people’s lives” and look at the human condition in a meaningful way. “The only way to [truly] engage is through the imagination,” she said.
She also told the audience that “there is nothing better a person, especially a parent, can do than to read to a child—it forms a contract for life.”
During the question period, Owen King admitted that his parents practiced what they preached with regard to reading. He recalled growing up surrounded by books and found it “natural” to become a writer “because it’s fun.”
“The readers of the world become the writers of the world,” Stephen King observed.
One of the students asked the elder King why his writings “were so gruesome and bloody.” He shrugged then suggested that it may that “we are drawn to things inside us.”
Since childhood he has been drawn to science fiction and horror stories. One book that was read to him as a child, he noted, was Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
“Reading becomes rewarding the more you do it,” King told the students. “If you can read you can walk into a job.”
PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools is a national literary outreach program dedicated to developing the next generation of readers. Since 1989, the program has brought nationally-known writers into urban public high schools.
Its parent organization, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, was founded by writers in 1980, and named for novelist William Faulkner, who used his Nobel Prize funds to create an award for young writers, and PEN, the international writers’ organization. The PEN/Faulkner Foundation, which brings together American writers and readers in a wide variety of programs to promote a love of literature, is one the Center for the Book’s reading promotion partners. For more information, visit www.penfaulkner.org.
John Y. Cole is director of the Center for the Book.