How to Train Your Dragon author shares importance of reading and creating
Posted November 11, 2016
To author Cressida Cowell, being bored is not a problem, it’s a gift. In fact, time she spent bored and making up stories as a child is directly responsible for her career of creating the popular 12-book, almost three-film series, How to Train Your Dragon (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $13, ages 8-11).
“The first thing that you need as a creative person is time and space to think,” Cowell said. “I also think that sometimes parents believe that they have to entertain their kids all day, every day. But you only have to watch young children playing together to see that they are inherently creative and imaginative — they don’t require us to do that.”
Cowell grew up in London but also spent summers with her family on an uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland with no roads, houses or electricity — and starts her signings with photos of her 9-year-old self on that island.
“The reason I do this is that what I most want to accomplish with my talk is to inspire children to write and create themselves,” Cowell said in an email interview. “I want them to know that I didn’t start off writing and illustrating full-length novels. I began at the age they are now, having fun by being creative.”
It was on that island as a child that Cowell began dreaming of Vikings and dragons.
“There is a particular cliff on the island that inspired the very beginning of the first book, which from a distance is the outline of a face,” Cowell said. “I used to lie on the ground, looking up at that face and imagining that the eye was a cave full of sleeping baby dragons.”
Using examples from How to Train Your Dragon, Cowell will give tips on getting started, how fascinating research can be and how maps can be fantastic story-starters, among other things.
“I want them to have the same joy reading and using their imagination that I did when I was a child,” Cowell said.
Not to mention, Cowell plans on slipping in some dragonese and sharing some behind-the-scenes details about the films.
For Cowell, reading and writing have always been a source of extraordinary happiness.
“It’s exciting to create a world in your own head and be able to share it on paper,” Cowell said. “The word ‘share’ is key because almost every decision I make as a children’s author has the overall aim of getting children reading. Books are a vital tool in emotional development, especially empathy."
As an ambassador for the U.K.’s National Literacy Trust for over a decade, Cowell has seen the countless academic studies that show that when children read for pleasure, it has a positive and significant impact on their academic and economic success later in life.
“I am very passionate about shared reading, especially beyond picture book age,” Cowell said. “Books read in your parents’ voices stay with you all your life.”
Hikari Loftus is a graduate of the University of Utah. She blogs at FoldedPagesDistillery.blogspot.com.