Our Sunday newspaper had an article about a museum in our community that has been featuring programs for children this summer. They highlighted a story time where an adult read a book to the children. This particular story for preschool age kids features some cows who type notes to the farmer demanding electric blankets. The farmer says "No." So, the cows go on strike. No milk! The farmer gives in. How easy it sounded
My first thought was that I didn't especially care for the idea of teaching small children how to protest and strike to get what they want. A lesson in temper tantrums, perhaps. After that, I began to ponder the amount of influence writers have on their readers.
Children are fairly easy to impress and to sway to the thinking by whatever adult is either writing a story, or reading it to them. For that reason, I think that children's authors need to be very careful. Of course, they are writing to myriad kinds of parents who pick out the books they read to their little ones. Some would be happy with that cow tale while others would not.
Nonfiction writers who write for adults also need to be cautious. Most readers take what is offered at face value. If this is what the writer tells me, I should probably believe it. We want to trust writers to tell us the truth and to tell us all of a story, not just the part that illustrates a point. In the political world we live in today, writers do influence readers a lot. We sometimes allow the writer whose political persuasion is the same as ours to cement our own opinion. He's on my side, so I'm going to believe him. When it's a writer whose views are the opposite side, we tend to be more doubtful. We scoff at what the writer tells us. This works with both parties, both ways. I'm not singling out any one affiliation here.
Fiction writers influence their readers, too. If the hero or heroine does this or that, we want to believe it's the way we should all act. When the author is one we admire, we take all he/she tells us at face value. We don't question. That's alright but keep in mind that this is fiction, not the reality that we live in on a daily basis. Sometimes,we do use fiction characters as role models and that's probably a positive. Hopefully, we'll strive to be the good guy (or girl) and ignore the character whose morals and actions are less than good.
How about poets? Do they also impress their readers? I think they definitely can. They, too, should give careful consideration to what they write and the way they hope to reach their readers' inner beings. Some poets will come back with something like I write poems from the heart and I don't care what my reader thinks. That's the personal choice of every poet and every writer but readers still leave with an impression of some kind.
I feel that, as writers, we need to consider the influence we have on our readers, both young and not-so-young. With that in mind, we should be responsible stewards of the word.