One of the things that I recommended for the Festival was to give the young people a distinct voice. For a gathering called Asian Festival of Children’s Content, it seems a little bit off to not give the ‘children’ themselves a say about what kind of content truly captivates their fancies. Often enough, teachers and experts make assumptions about what we think children need, when in fact, they might have their own thoughts about the kind of reading materials they enjoy.
The panel was moderated by Catherine Khoo who is the creator of the Young Author Scheme and the chief organizer of the Young Author Awards. I was not able to stay throughout the entire session since I had to rush off to prepare for the SCBWI dinner. From the little that I managed to hear though, I was impressed by how well-read these young people are. They mentioned authors such as Kazuo Ishiguro, Haruki Murakami, Dan Brown, Nicholas Sparks, Edith Wharton among others. They are reading the Inheritance Cycle, the Game of Thrones, all have read the Hunger Games (of course), Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, Song of Ice and Fire, even Clockwork Orange.
They noted that they prefer reading award-winning books or classics, coming-of-age novels speak to them, and they also prefer books that break stereotypes. 17 year old Theresa Ellsworth also shared that she finds a lot of novels to be really cliche with the love triangle aspect continually thrown in. She emphatically stated that teenagers want originality and a different kind of subplot. All of them agree that they like books that make them think. Wow. Truly impressive. I also copied the bio of these young would-be authors in the event that you wish to know more about them:
Bryan Joel Lim from Catholic Junior College is a 17-year old student who indulges himself in the arts, books, movies, and music despite his heavy workload. His constant exposure to these media forms has changed the way he lives life. He is a regular columnist with the Young Reader Club Magazine, a bi-monthly magazine for under-18s. He also writes and reviews for Spin or Bin Music, an online music blog.
Lee Tat Wei from Anglo-Chinese School has won 2nd place in the 2010/11 Young Author Awards for his 27,000 word story Chains of Fate. He is currently writing a sequel to the story, and is a regular contributor to the Young Reader Club Magazine.
Sharon Skariah from Global Indian International School discovered the passion for a reality that is completely made up and out of this world through Enid Blyton’s books. Today at sixteen, her favourite authors are Nicholas Sparks, George Orwell, JD Salinger, and Haruki Murakami. She is a finalist in the 2011/12 Young Author Awards and is a contributor to the bimonthly Young Reader Club Magazine for under 18s.
Theresa Ellsworth from Singapore American School aspires to be an author and dreams to tell her story to the world. She has been writing from teenink, nanowrimo, inkpop, to wattpad. She is a finalist in the 2011/12 Young Author Awards and a regular contributor to Young Reader Club Magazine, for under 18s. At seventeen years, she is a scuba diver, a singer, holds a black belt, and a half-Chinese, half-American girl.
Victor Van Niekerk from International Community School come from South Africa but grew up in Russia. He’s thirteen and is the eldest of his siblings. He comes from a Christian family and moved to Singapore August 2011. He started writing in fifth grade and began writing his first book Black Fire when he was in the 6th grade. He loves reading fiction and fantasy and noted that most of the movies adapted from books never really measure up to the original reading materials.