In my previous work life, I was a podiatrist. Now, as is probably clear from the header, I play with words. Mostly I write for children. Many people have suggested that becoming a children’s writer is a big leap from being a podiatrist. And mostly, I’ve agreed with them. But thinking about it recently, I’m not so sure there is such a big gap.
Well, not for me anyway. As a podiatrist, I worked mainly in Community Health. That means not only seeing individuals, but also devising and delivering programs designed to increase…um…the health of the community. ie to provide the opportunity for people to discover how they can maintain and improve their own health.
Still with me?
In writing for children, I’m writing books that I hope will engage (entrance, captivate etc) children and help to establish a love of reading, an access to language. This access gives them the ability to decipher information. Those who can ‘gain meaning from text’ can access information. Information that can help them learn, help them navigate their world, provide them with choices.
Of course, writing the books is no more a guarantee that a child will grow and develop than providing health information can guarantee that healthy choices will be made. But it’s a step in the right direction. If there are books around, there’s a chance. If good health information is available, there are choices.
The connection is there. Literacy and health are connected.
When I was working in Community Health one of the Health Promotion projects that most engaged me was designed to help improve formal links between childcare/kindergarden carers/teachers and prep teachers. The premise was that more established links would help teachers on both sides to provide programs better suited to their students. And improve the opportunity for establishing literacy.
I loved the stories that individuals shared with me. In sharing their story, I learned more about their world and about my world. I learned about history, culture, racism, generosity, sadness, pain, joy and more. Not that I knew at the time that’s what I was learning.
I love writing stories that I can share with others. And just as when I was listening, I often don’t know what I’m really writing about until afterwards. But my writing is informed by every conversation I’ve ever had, every person I’ve encountered.
I love that both my careers have been involved in connecting with people. Not so far apart these careers. Not really.