The Importance of Middle-Grade Fiction
Why Reading my Book Series Scary
School is Guaranteed to Turn your Kid into a Well-adjusted, Ivy
League-bound, World-beater Dynamo
By Derek the Ghost
off with this question. Why is reading important for children? Wait. I have
better question. Why is absorbing a story in the form of text considered a
superior means of story-absorption as opposed to pictures and sound through a
television or movie screen?
Back in the
olden days before TV and movies, reading was the numero uno form of
self-entertainment. However, like TV of today, using books to take in fictional
stories was considered a highly frivolous activity. In fact, I’m pretty sure
the only form of reading not considered frivolous was reading the bible.
So why did
the cultural paradigm shift? Television and movies became the dominant form of
story dispersion, and suddenly books became the underdog. When books became the
underdog, they went from frivolous to intellectually elitist practically overnight.
You could argue the same thing happened with theater.
So, are you
actually smarter because you read, or is it just our culture’s perception of
reading that merely makes you appear
answer. You’re actually smarter.
without saying that reading requires a basic education. But more importantly, it
requires that the brain function in a heightened state of stimulation called Alpha Mode. During Alpha Mode there’s an
innumerable amount of split-second decisions taking place. The brain is
constantly deciphering letters and interpreting their meaning while at the same
time forming imagery to correlate with each phrase. It requires a lot of sub-conscious
brain energy and millions of electrical reactions.
reading requires so much brain energy, the brain becomes tired quickly and wants
to switch to Beta Mode. Beta Mode is when
you are spacing out, vegging out, or just hanging out. You are essentially on
autopilot, just taking things in, but not actively participating. When you are
driving a car, you are usually in Alpha Mode. But when you suddenly look up and
realize you’ve driven ten miles past your freeway exit, that’s right… you
switched over to Beta Mode, buster.
news is that reading is like running. When you first start running you can only
run a short distance before getting tired. Reading is the same way. The more
you read, the more “brain exercise” you’re getting, and staying in Alpha Mode
for longer stretches without getting tired becomes much easier. This effect
bleeds over into all facets of life. You’ll be able to study longer and more
effectively, retain more information, and work more thoroughly and patiently
for extended hours. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did this better than anyone.
Now let me
ask you this: Why were kids who had never read anything longer than a 150-page
Goosebumps book so eager to read a 750-page Harry Potter book? And why were
they able to do it so effortlessly, when reading just one chapter of a schoolbook
feels like a Herculean labor?
they loved it. Reading Harry Potter was as enjoyable to most kids (if not more
so) than playing video games or watching cartoons. The pleasure of reading
those books caused kids’ brains to squirt dopamine into their system, making them
feel euphoric and self-confident. There’s something books provide that all
their other forms of entertainment cannot – a deep, almost familial bond with
the characters. Only books can create that on such a profound level. Remember
Kathy Bates in Misery? That’s the
dark side of it, but I don’t think anyone went bat-#$#@ crazy when Friends was cancelled.
thing about Harry Potter was the
after-shock it created in the middle-grade and YA book market. Kids were
addicted to the book. The pleasure they got from the suspense, humor, mystery,
and triumph had shot buckets of dopamine into their systems and no other form
of entertainment could match that natural high. So, the middle-grade and YA
book market exploded with kids seeking their next fix. When the Harry Potter fans grew up, they were
naturally attracted to edgier, more adult fare that reflected their changing
selves, and the YA market skyrocketed, heralded by Twilight and now The Hunger
Which brings me to my book
series, Scary School. With these
books, I had only one goal. I was not trying
to write to the best middle-grade series ever. I wasn’t trying to win any
Newberry medals for literature. All I
wanted to do with the Scary School series
was make kids laugh. That’s it.
With my background
in comedy writing, I felt that I could maybe write the funniest (not the best) middle-grade book ever. Go
big or go home, right? I wanted to have at least three laugh-out-loud moments
on every page. Did I succeed? You’ll have to tell me, but the most often used
words in the reviews of the book have been “hilarious” and “laugh-out-loud
funny.” So far so good.
happen when your kids read Scary School
will be something very magical. It may very well be the first chapter book your
kid reads as well as the first chapter of a life of profound and meaningful
achievement. It may also be something a reluctant reader gives a shot because
it actually looks fun with that zombie skateboarding kid on the cover. Maybe
the only reason your kid gets it is because I’m signing copies at the local
bookstore, so you think it would be neat for your kid to have a signed book. Let’s
play out that scenario:
I sign the
inside jacket of Scary School Book One and write him or her a special message
with a funny drawing. Your kid is much more excited to receive it than you
thought he/she would be.
you hear laughter from across the house late at night. Your kid is supposed to
be asleep but is staying up in bed reading Scary
School. You figure that’s okay, so you let him/her keep reading, and you
keep hearing laughter until midnight. The laughter is forging an imprint on
your kid’s brain that reading=fun.
finishing Scary School, you child
will seek out more books to try and recreate that boisterous experience.
process, the child will continuing growing up, always reading and seeking that
next great story. While other kids are watching TV and living their lives in Beta
Mode, your child’s brain will be in Alpha Mode 1,000% more often. The
heightened brain stimulation for long hours will increase your child’s cognitive
functioning far past his/her peers. Not only that, your child will be armed
with amazing moral and practical lessons learned throughout the Scary School book series that helps
him/her adjust to new situations, treat people with respect and kindness, and
fuel him/her with a yearning to make the world a better place.
your child into doing community service, building the next great invention, and
becoming class president.
Yale both offer your child full scholarships, but he/she chooses to cash in on
his new invention money and attends Oxford because Scary School taught him/her the value of seeking adventure and
meeting different kinds of people from all over the world.
miss him/her as you otherwise might have because in the future there’s
holographic communication where it seems like you’re actually sitting and
talking in the same room together.
graduation, your child comes back home where he/she is probably a DA, a famous
architect, a prodigious scientist, or CEO of that hot new startup. He/She comes
over for dinner one night and puts a knapsack down on the sofa. It falls over,
and amongst the futuristic gadgets, you notice an old, dusty copy of Scary School – that book your child read
in one all-nighter back in middle school. That book purchased on a whim because
the author happened to be signing at the store. You open it up, and read what
is says where I signed the inside of the jacket:
Dear (your kid’s
name), Have Fun at Scary School! – Derek the Ghost
For more info the Scary School series, fun and games, and even tour the school and
meet the students and faculty, please visit www.ScarySchool.com
School #2 – Monsters on the March will be released June 26, 2012 online and
in bookstores everywhere.