Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Paying it Forward

There's a story in my "Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul" book written by a lady who once volunteered to help out in her child's first grade classroom. She would listen to students read from their readers. One little boy, whose home life was known to be a shambles, had a severe speech impediment that had held him back for several years. The volunteer mum had an impulse to give him a cheap story book of his very own. Well, she couldn't believe how that boy's face shone, as happy tears slid down his cheeks. The teacher reported that he hugged the book to his chest at all times when he wasn't poring over it. Miraculously, owning his first  book helped him to begin to read with more clarity and expression.

This was a pivotal event for that volunteer mum, who had been toying with the idea of trying to write a novel. When she saw what an impact the author of that Little Golden Book had made in the life of a disadvantaged child, she longed for the potential chance to make a similar difference in some other readers' lives.

I understand where she's coming from because I've been in both positions, hers and the boy's. I had a miserable time throughout school, but being a bookworm brightened my life. I remember hanging out for the next books in series, having my heart soar on days when the mobile library drove onto the school premises and sharing the hurts and triumphs of each character I read about. As a Primary School student, I often used to 'act out' the stories, walking around with a book in front of my nose pretending to be one of the characters. Recently, I drove my kids past a house where I used to live when I was little. There was a great wooden plank fence still there which used to be the "Faraway Tree" which I'd climb up to visit Moonface, Silky and the rest of Enid Blyton's gang. People used to think I was a strange little girl.

As I grew up, I wanted to pay it forward too. What a privilege, to be able to brighten and affect the lives of other readers the way these authors did for me. I love to think of being part of the pond ripples, as other potential writers have even written or emailed to say the same thing about me. My writing is part of my way of saying thank you to each of the authors who would have had no idea of the impact they'd make on me.

Thank you, Enid Blyton
Thank you, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Thank you, Louisa May Alcott
Thank you, L. M. Montgomery
Thank you, Beverly Cleary
Thank you, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte
Thank you, Jane Austen
Thank you, Eleanor H. Porter
Thank you, Charles Dickens
Thank you, C. S. Lewis
Thank you, A. A. Milne
Thank you, Lewis Carroll

That's the tip of the iceberg as there have been many others too.

Paula Vince is an award-winning author and homeschooling mum. Her novels are set in her own beautiful corner of the world, the Adelaide Hills. Please visit her at her brand new website, or her blog,


  1. I have grateful words for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Enid Blyton, too. They got me through many days and nights in childhood. And many thanks to my Uncle Peter... who furnished me with sets of these books. He asked me what I wanted for my birthday one year... I said a book. He bought me a box full, and I've never been the same. :)

    1. What a great uncle, Dorothy. I love it when kind relatives go above and beyond what you expect. And look what he may have helped put into motion.

  2. Thanks for that reminder Paula to say thank you to the Authors who have shaped our world and our writing. You've mentioned many authors whose books I've read and loved over the years. Enid Blyton, Louisa May Alcott,L. M. Montgomery, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, Jane Austen, C. S. Lewis, A. A. Milne, Lewis Carroll! Isn't it wonderful how books can impact generations long after we are gone - as these Authors have done.

    A great encouragement to us then that we too will live on in the world (hopefully! :)) long after we are dead and gone!
    Blessings and thanks,

    1. Hi Anusha,
      Yes, all these authors I mention have long since passed away. Well, Beverly Cleary would be the youngest but if she happened to be still alive, she'd have to be around 100 years old. Nothing like the timelessness of writing.

  3. What a touching story about that little boy. Books do make a huge impact on people, all in different ways. Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. Hi Amanda,
    I thought so too. It also shows that often, we only need a small gesture to make a big impact, doesn't it?

  5. Hi Paula, I just had a look all over your new website. Great!
    My mum couldn't afford books for me and as I attended a tiny, one room school in Oyster Bay, we had no library. However, I possessed a wonderful grandmother who told me the most fascinating stories, often quitting at a cliff hanger and I'd have to carry on. I saved up and bought May Gibbs Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie which I lovingly read and reread for years. Also someone lent me Milly Molly Mandy and Pollyanna. Then in my teens I soaked up anything I could get my hands on including your favourite authors. I guess everything finds its way into the subconscious and eventually comes out in another form!

  6. Hi Rita,
    You've reminded me, I should have said Thank you, Joyce Lankester Brisley. Just yesterday, we loaned our store of Milly Molly Mandy books to a friend with little girls (like my 13 year old Emma was not so long ago). The way she illustrated those charming stories was wonderful to me in my own childhood and then my daughter's. I'm glad I had one daughter as I wouldn't have pulled MMM out for the boys.
    Thanks so much for your feedback on my website. I was getting nervous about it. Although there are still a few teething issues to work out with it, I like to think it is taking shape.

  7. Lovely story Paula from another who lived in a world of books and loved it. Come to think of it I still do.

  8. Hi Dale,
    Me too. Some things don't change :)

  9. Isn't it amazing that these authors who are known as classic are still selling and 'current'. Their stories continue to be read though generations.
    I volunteered in my son's first grade class and enjoyed every second.

  10. Hi Rose,
    Yeah, I was thinking that I didn't purposely exclude living authors. A great story definitely never loses its appeal or shelf life.